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Frank Abagnale’s Advice for Banks and Credit Unions

October 15, 2020|0 min read
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Frank Abagnale, subject of the movie Catch Me If You Can and Cybersecurity and Fraud Prevention Expert, recently spoke at our Money Experience Summit event where he shared important lessons from his time spent working with the FBI, to help prevent fraud and educate organizations on best practices.

Employee education is critical to safety.

Abagnale also dives into the importance of education when it comes to fighting crime. He says, “Education is a very important tool. Banks need to educate and train their employees. I have found that over my 40 plus years, whether I'm educating FBI agents or whether I'm educating law enforcement or I'm educating bankers, it's the most important tool to fighting crime. I would say the number one thing that banks and financial institutions need to do is a better job of educating their employees so they understand the risk and they understand why those controls are in place to protect both them and their clients.” 

Passwords are unsafe and outdated.

Diving deeper into the topic of safety, Abagnale shares his thoughts on passwords and why we need to move away from them. He says, “We will never do away with problems on the internet till we wake up to the fact that passwords are for tree houses. We have got to get rid of passwords. They were invented in 1964 when I was 16 years old and today we are still using passwords. They're the cause of the malware, the ransomware, the breaches, everything. Fortunately, today, we have the technology to eliminate passwords. We can identify an individual from their device with 100% accuracy. I think we have to move ahead to the future. I know people don't like change, but change has to happen. And we have to get rid of passwords if we ever want to get rid of risks.”

Credit builds financial stability. 

Abagnale believes that in today’s world, it all starts with credit worthiness. He says, “I try to instill in young people today the importance of learning about how to handle credit. Everything is based on credit. If you apply for a job, they check your credit. If you apply for auto insurance, they check your credit. You apply for life insurance, they check your credit. It’s important to start early, to learn how to build credit in your own name, have a handle on your finances properly, and minimize your risk. 

After writing a book, Abagnale says he found that “millennials were scammed more often than seniors, but seniors lost more money. So I think we do a very poor job of educating young people about the risks on the internet. The risks are going down the wrong road, the risks of not understanding how to handle your finances and how to build your credit and build your life.”

Hackers don’t cause breaches, people do. 

When it comes to preventing breaches, Abagnale believes it all starts with people. He says, “I think of every possible way I would defeat something. And I know that if I can think of it, someone else can think of it. If something's made by a man or a woman, there's a man or a woman who can defeat it. But what you try to do is make it so difficult that they'll go somewhere else. The problem we have today is that we have great technology, but if we don't use it, then it's worthless. Unfortunately, too many corporations and businesses today say, ‘Oh, this could never happen to me. I don't want to spend the money to do it.’ And you're just waiting to be a victim because you will become a victim.”

He later gives a specific example of the Equifax breach. He says, "They failed to update their system. They failed to put the security patches in from Microsoft. So eventually hackers got in and stole 148 million identities and 12 million drivers licenses. I always say that every breach occurs because somebody in that company did something they weren't supposed to do, or somebody in that company failed to do something they were supposed to do. Hackers really don't cause breaches, people do. We update our technology, we keep it updated. And that's the only way we can really stay safe and send the criminal somewhere else. Criminals are not looking for a challenge. They're looking for opportunities.”

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