“Technology Breeds Crime”

Frank Abagnale, the former conman played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can and who now works as a security consultant, explains how forgery has only gotten easier:

To forge a cheque 50 years ago, you needed a Heidelberg printed press, you had to be a skilled printer, know how to do colour separations, negatives, type-setting… those presses were 90 feet long and 18 feet high. There was a lot of work involved in creating a cheque. Today, you open a laptop.

If you are going to forge a British Airways cheque, you go to their website, capture the corporate logo and put it in the top right corner. You then put a jet taking off in the background and make a really fancy four-colour cheque in 15 minutes on your computer. You then go down to an office supply store, buy security cheque paper and put it in your colour printer.

Fifty years ago, information was hard to come by. When you created a cheque you had no way of knowing where in reality British Airways’ bank was, who was authorised to sign their cheques and you didn’t know their account number. Today you can call any corporation in the world and tell them you are getting ready to wire them money and they will tell you the bank, the wiring number, the account number. You can then ask for a copy of the annual report and on page three are the signatures of the chairman of the board, the CEO and the treasurer. It’s all on white glossy paper with black ink — scanner ready art. You then just print it onto the cheque.