"Catch Me If You Can", Frank W. Abagnale, 1980, 0-7679-0538-5
%A Frank W. Abagnale
%C 201 E. 50th St., 31st Floor, New York, NY 10022
%I Random House/Broadway Books
%O 212-751-2600, 800-733-3000
%P 293 p.
%T "Catch Me If You Can"
Frank Abagnale was a con man, specializing in passing fraudulent
cheques. Subsequently, he became a consultant on the topic of
avoiding cheque swindles. "Catch Me If You Can" is his autobiography,
which was recently made into a movie.
The first comparison to make is between the movie and the book. Both
are equally amusing and engaging. The book is quite readable, and
presents Abagnale as a likeable rogue. (Well, what else would you
expect from a con man?)
Interestingly, both the book and the movie, separately, each have
details that the other lacks. The book notes the need for constant
study of a field or situation in order to continue to perpetrate a
ruse, and to continue to improve on the delivery. The movie
demonstrates more examples of social engineering than does the book,
such as making the target party complicit by offering them a seemingly
unrelated benefit, or using a well-timed compliment to interrupt the
process of a security check (since people seldom "re-enter" such a
procedure at exactly the same point).
The other obvious comparison to make is with the more recently self-
proclaimed chief charlatan, Kevin Mitnick, and his "The Art of
Deception" (cf. BKARTDCP.RVW). Both perpetrated crimes with the help
of technology, Mitnick with computers, and Abagnale with cheque forms.
Both used social engineering. Both have written books.
One difference is that Abagnale's text is more interesting than
Mitnick's. "The Art of Deception" has been described as "nineteen
chapters of GOTCHA!," and gets tedious very quickly. Abagnale is coy
on some points, but is more open and entertaining. Mitnick basically
says that people can be fooled: Abagnale examines some of the methods
how, and reasons why, and presents at least a few points that can be
used to detect and avoid trickery.
I would not say that "Catch Me If You Can" is a "must read" for
security people, but it is short, amusing, and raises some useful
questions in regard to fraud detection adn prevention.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKCMIYCN.RVW 20041008
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