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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

6 Identity Protection Tips from an Expert — Identity Thief Extraordinaire, Frank Abagnale

Who better to learn from about identity theft than from one of the most legendary identity thieves in the country?

Who better to learn from about identity theft than from one of the most legendary identity thieves in the country?

While some may know the name “Frank Abagnale” as Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the Steven Spielberg film “Catch Me If You Can,” the FBI knows him best as a con man who spent his teenage years in the 1960s forging checks, committing identity theft and evading police capture, even escaping from custody twice. While Abagnale was eventually arrested at age 21 and spent five years in federal prison for his various crimes, his skills were undeniable — so much so that the government, after spending so many years trying to catch him, eventually recruited him to help catch other con men and identity thieves.

Abagnale has worked with the FBI in this role for the past 40 years, lending his expertise to law enforcement agencies on finding and stopping identity criminals and fraudsters. Given his pedigree, there are few people in the United States better positioned as an authority on all things ID theft than Abagnale. Which makes his recent keynote address at the Charlotte Convention Center in North Carolina, as part of the 2015 Fraud and Forensic Investigations Conference, all the more noteworthy. After all, who better to learn from about the signs of identity theft and what you can to reduce your chances of becoming a fraudster’s victim than from one of the most legendary identity thieves in the country?

Here are six identity protection tips that Abagnale shared with local news publication the Observer:

  • Don’t use a clear picture of yourself for a Facebook profile photo. Instead, use a picture where you’re in a group of people or doing something. For example, “an action shot of ‘you playing tennis,'” Abagnale recommends.
  • Don’t write checks frivolously. Make sure you’re careful to whom, and where, you write checks.
  • Double check your Facebook privacy settings. Make sure information like your birthday or hometown is not left visible to the public.
  • Opt for credit over debit. If your card’s information is stolen through a data breach or a skimming device, and an identity thief uses it to run up charges under your name, credit card holders generally won’t be held liable for the charges. It’s also much easier to resolve fraudulent charges with your credit card company than to be reimbursed for money stolen off a debit card.
  • Sign up with a credit monitoring service. Having a third-party monitor your credit files and alert you to certain activity that may be indicative of fraud is essential for curbing the damage caused by ID theft as soon as possible.
  • Use a micro-cut shredder to dispose of important documents. While you might think you’re safe by using a straight or cross-cut shredder, the fact is that determined identity thieves can put those scraps of paper together within a matter of hours. With a micro-cut shredder, paperwork is rendered into an impossible-to-reassemble mess of shreds.

Unfortunately, there’s no 100 percent foolproof method of protecting against identity theft. But as Abagnale lists above, there are plenty of simple and common-sense measures you can easily incorporate into your day-to-day life that will make it that much harder for someone to steal your identity and use it against you.