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Art of the Steal

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Frank Abagnale, Jr. called me late in the evening while I was at Standard Register Co (SRC).  It was much more exciting for me than it was for him.  Frank was wonderfully pleasant.  He was looking to troubleshoot a check encoder. I wanted to be helpful. I knew he was working with SRC on check security matters. No matter how many times I  (naively) gave him the opportunity to exploit our process, he stayed honest.

He needed an onsite repair. The CRM/service management system SRC previously used was notorious for incorrect and duplicate data. Whenever a customer said they had a service agreement, we were to accept it at face value, as it took us too long to figure it out. It was left up to billing. Catch Me If You Can Frank would have let me talk him into providing service for free.  Art of the Steal Frank is an honest expert in fraud methodologies.  He has probably long forgot the awkward conversation with me.  I never did. As I closed out the call with him, I realized that I had willingly set myself up to be taken for a con.  It changed my perspective on being helpful and how I interact with situations.

Coincidentally, The Art of the Steal, is also about changing your perspective.  This book walks you through many common and still relevant frauds. For me, it was a walk down memory lane. There is a beefy section dedicated to check fraud (surprise).  I learned much of this from my time at SRC.  Guess what, SRC learned much of what they taught me from Frank Abagnale, Jr.  If you don’t know, SRC had a good chuck of business dedicated to check stock and check processing. Many units are still in use today even though SRC brand is not.

Beyond check fraud, Frank covers identity theft, ATM Fraud, credit card fraud, and many other confidence scams. I feel like this book should be required reading for the entire plant. It helps teach you to perceive and avoid scams. Many of these scams are simple. For example, the short change scam. Basically, a person is tricked into short changing themselves through a bunch of transactions and a little applied anger. I was introduced to this scam  while working my first job at my local movie theater. This was tried on me there at least three times. I never fell for it.  I’ve also been lucky enough to stop it from happening to others a few times at various businesses. I just happened to be in the checkout lane when the fraudster tried it. They are never happy when they are called out.

Learning just to recognize these scams will not only protect you, but you can protect other people. The Art of the Steal does exactly that. If you want to learn how to avoid being scammed or even get an idea on how to turn the tables, this is a book for you.  It is written well. The prose carries you through the book quickly and explains topics simply, but thoroughly.

For me, this book, this book is a win for more reasons that the knowledge. I found my copy in the clearance bin of a local used book store.  It turned out to be a first edition autographed by Frank Abagnale, Jr. Sometimes good things happen by just being in the right place at the right time. You never know when that is, so watch out for the bad and the good.


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