Have you ever wanted to be someone else?
My mother says that she always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up by the latest book I brought home from the library. Little has changed.
One of my favorite books when I was younger was “Catch Me If You Can”. An autobiography by Frank Abignale Jr. published in 1978. For years I thought I was the only one fascinated by this story of deception until it was turned in to a movie by the same name in 2002.
The book still mesmerizes me. For years I thought I was the only one who shared that fascination until that rather mainstream movie; starring none other than messers Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
This story details one of the truly great con-artists of all time. In fact, he scams banks, airlines, hospitals, hotels, all before his 18th birthday. Oh yes, he ends up in jail. In Europe and the United States.
Mr. Abignale conned people around the world. He impersonated being an Airline Pilot, a Teaching Assistant, a Physician, an Attorney. Not alway successful, as he was imprisoned around the world, too. When the French police caught him, 12 countries in which he’d committed fraud sought his extraction.
After his release from prison in the United States he offered a Texas Bank a “pay later” speech. He promised the bank executives to teach them how not to be scammed. If the bank was happy, Abignale would get paid, and the bank would provide his name to other banks. Abignale was paid the $500 and began a career helping corporations around country do the same.
Today, he continues to advise the FBI.
So much of Abignale's success came from the people around him who believed him. He simply created a false sense of reality. Which, when done well, is impossible to resist.