The Art of the Steal

Author: Frank Abagnale

Year: 2001

Focus Area:  Consumer Protection, Fraud Types and Methods

Relevance: As a former con-man and a long-time affiliate of the
FBI, Abagnale presents a uniquely informed view of today’s world as ripe with opportunities for fraud – and what individuals, businesses, and policy-makers can do to protect against creative criminal minds.

Summary: Sectioned by fraud type, Abagnale thoroughly reviews the nature, development, and current trends of each fraud category, including classic scams, the wild west of cyber crime , and the rapidly-expanding world of identity fraud.  While geared more for individuals, the text provides recommendations for policy-makers and businesses on how to deter, prevent, and detect fraud:

Frauds generally

“The artful confidence man can extract money from just about anyone, because he’s an astute student of human nature and knows the power of deception.” (p. 107)

“We sorely need stiffer penalties and real jail time for white-collar criminals…. it’s ridiculous that if I have drugs on me I’ll get five or ten years in prison, but if I rip off $20 million I’ll probably get probation.” (p. 220)

“Companies don’t care enough about losses from fraud, because in most cases they can deduct a hundred percent of their losses from their income taxes.” (p. 220)


Include security precautions on “breeder” documents such as birth certificates, which are used to obtain genuine identification such as passports. (p. 62)

Securities fraud

“As recently as 1990, [viaticals] was a small, arcane business, amounting to less than $100 million of viaticated policies.  But it has grown to more than $1 billion.  Consequently, criminals have taken notice and… scams have become rampant, and rank among the top-ten investment frauds being perpetrated.” (p. 196)


“[T]he harder someone works, the better the chance he could be an embezzler.” (p. 93)

Consumer cons

“I get angry at the banks over these schemes, because they don’t take them seriously enough…. The real issue is that since the bank’s not liable for the loss, it doesn’t care enough
to do something about it.” (p. 123)


“The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that 210,000 American workers could be added to the work rolls if [counterfeit machine parts] were made legally.” (p.

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