Catch Him If You Can: Frank Abagnale Jr.

Frank W. Abagnale Jr. is one of the world’s most respected authorities on forgery, embezzlement, and secure documents. For over 40 years Frank has worked beside, advised, and consulted with hundreds of corporations, financial institutions, and government agencies around the globe. Mr. Abagnale’s rare blend of knowledge and expertise began in the 1960s when he became one of the world’s most famous con men by way of perfecting the arts of charm and paper hanging. Before the age of 19, Frank had managed to fly as a deadhead to 26 countries—equalling 1,000,000 miles—for free by posing as Pan American pilot. Through the art of manipulation, Abagnale passed himself off as a physician, attorney, and an assistant professor during his legendary run.

The gentleman picked up a thing or two along the way about how to travel with style and grace. We naturally thought he would fit in nicely with The Travel Issue. The following is an interview with Frank Abagnale Jr. conducted by Whalebone Magazine.

My name is Mr. Abagnale! That’s Abagnale, not Abagnahlee. Not Abagnaylee, but Abagnale!

–Frank Abagnale Jr. as portrayed by Leo in Catch Me If You Can, 2002.


A few of our favorite stories from the younger traveling days of Mr. Frank Abagnale Jr.

Abagnale went on a “promotional tour” for Pan Am Airlines with eight girls he had interviewed at a school and promised shots at becoming flight attendants. All expenditures for the tour were paid for by Pan Am and some $300,000 extra was pocketed by Abagnale with the help of phony company expense checks. He describes the affair in detail on pages 140 to 157 of his book, available on

In a speech, Abagnale described an occasion when he noticed the location where airlines and car rental businesses, such as United Airlines and Hertz, would drop off their daily collections of money in a zip up bag and then deposit them into a drop box on the airport premises. Using a security guard disguise he bought at a local costume shop, he put a sign over the box saying “Out of Service, Place deposits with security guard on duty” and collected money in that manner. Later he disclosed how he could not believe this idea had actually worked, stating with some astonishment: “How can a drop box be out of service?”

Current Whereabouts

Abagnale lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife Kelly, whom he met while working undercover for the FBI 40 years ago. They have three sons, Scott, Chris, and Sean. Scott works for the FBI. Mr. Abagnale has been associated with the FBI for over 40 years. He lectures extensively at the FBI Academy and field offices. He is a faculty member at the National Advocacy Center (NAC) which is operated by the Department of Justice, Executive Office for United States Attorneys. More than 14,000 financial institutions, corporations and law enforcement agencies use his fraud prevention programs. In 1998, he was selected as a distinguished member of “Pinnacle 400” by CNN Financial New —a select group of people chosen on the basis of great accomplishment and success in their fields.


The Interview

Favorite place you have ever visited?

One thing you cannot travel without?
FA: Favorite pajamas.

Three books you would recommend?
FA: Future Crimes by Marc Goodman; Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven; Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.

Worst job you have ever had?
FA: Pinsetter at a bowling alley.

One piece of advice you would provide anyone starting out on a career or new adventure?
FA: Do something you are going to truly enjoy, something that is much more important than money.

The best restaurant to visit in Charleston?
FA: Fulton Five.

One bed and breakfast or hotel you would recommend?
FA: Ritz-Carlton Central Park, New York City.

How do you want to be remembered 100 years from now?
FA: I want to be remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather.

The Travel Issue

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