The True Story That Inspired Catch Me If You Can

Abagnale (above, left) managed to elude the FBI for years while he pursued his various shenanigans. Per Business Insider, he did impersonate a doctor and a lawyer, even going as far as passing the bar exam in Louisiana. Arguably his most fantastic accomplishment was impersonating a Pan Am pilot by getting his hands on a uniform, forging his own pilot’s ID and FAA license. He then used his new found status as a pilot to crisscross the country and forge his checks and perpetrate his fraud.

Many of the scenes in the film seem impossible for anyone to pull off, especially a teenager. Turns out, there are definitely a few things in the movie that are not exactly true. For example, the FBI agent who caught Abagnale was not named Hanratty. His character was loosely based on Special Agent Joseph Shea, who did help catch Abagnale. Also, the character of Brenda in the movie, who becomes Abagnale’s fiancé, didn’t really exist either. He admits he did date a girl while on the run but was never engaged.

Journalist Allan Logan wrote “The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Catching Truth, While We Can,” a book that contradicted much of Abagnale’s story. Logan wrote that Abagnale was either in prison or quietly on the run during the years in question, and that his claims are all either exaggerations or outright lies. Keeping in mind that Frank Abagnale Jr. is an extremely skilled con-man and that he is extremely good at fooling people, you can decide how much of his story is true — or not.

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