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The Art of the Steal: How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud, America's #1 Crime.

By Frank W. Abagnale 225 pages; paperback; $14 Broadway Books, New York, 2001

In this book, Frank W. Abagnale (recently portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie based on his first book, Catch Me If You Can) reports on an astonishing range of methods that thieves employ to steal everything from money to credit cams to personal identities.

As a teenager Abagnale was able to successfully impersonate an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer with the use of forged or phony documents. After he was captured, he assisted the FBI in detecting fraud. During the past 25-plus years, he has become one of the world's best-known authorities on matters involving forgery and secure documentation. He lectures at the FBI academy and is a consultant for companies that print and design checks and other documents.

Rather than draw on his own experiences in The Art of the Steal, the author details the frauds and con routines of others. It's both appalling and enlightening to learn what approaches criminals use and how they implement them. Abagnale discusses forgery, different types of con games and falsification of documents among other areas. The book is loaded with examples and explanations of the various crimes.

Readers may recognize some of the more common frauds we read about in the news, but as soon as you think you've heard it all, Abagnale pulls another scam out of his vast knowledge of crime. It's scary to learn how easy it is for someone to obtain our personal information or to steal our identities, and the book is a serious warning to all unsuspecting, trusting souls.

The author makes the point that one of the difficulties in preventing fraud is the problem of trying to predict who will steal from you. "It's been my experience, on both sides of the law, that there is no profile of who's a con artist or a forger," says Abagnale. He's seen men who were 80 years old and teenage girls commit the same types of fraud. They may have different reasons, but "most of the time it's the people you least expect who steal from you."

American businesses could do much more to prevent fraud, Abagnale says. For example, he points out that they will use a check design until a fraud has occurred rather than trying to prevent one by using designs that can't be manipulated by criminals. He also says our culture, using schools and businesses--not just religious institutions--should offer ethics training. According to the author, the major fraud in the United States is check forgery and the biggest threats in the future will be cybercrime and personal identity theft.

Easy to read and engrossing, The Art of the Steal shares unsettling information that can help people and businesses protect themselves.

STANLEY PERSON, CPA, of Person and Co., believes in reading for education and relaxation. His e-mail address is panda
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Author:Person, Stanley
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2003
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