Frank Abagnail, the ex-conman and current FBI consultant who was the inspiration for the book and the film “Catch Me if You Can,” spoke to the Guardian at AdWeek Europe about just how easy it is to steal someone’s identity using Facebook.
Abagnail is famous for pulling off a series of scams when he was a teenager in the 1960’s that netted him roughly $2.5 million, including identity theft. However, with the tools available to intrepid criminals today, the potential damage that could be done from simply exploiting the information users make available on Facebook could be devastating.
“Technology breeds crime. It always has, it always will,” he said. “There will always be people willing to use technology in self-serving ways.”
Abagnail warned of the particular dangers of using individual, “passport-style” photos for a profile picture. Instead, he advised users to opt for group shots.
“If you have your picture on Facebook, there is facial recognition software like PicTac where I’m able to go to your Facebook page,” he said. “So if I snap your picture and have from your Facebook page where you were born and your date of birth, I’m already 98 per cent there to stealing your identity.”
He may be a reformed con artist from a different generation, but his points still ring true: if users manage their online identities carefully and don’t reveal too much information about themselves, they can ensure they’re not easy targets for scammers.