Former Thief Helps Retailer Build Trust

Security expert Frank Abagnale, Jr., whose exploits as a teenager in the 1960s were the basis for the film Catch Me if You Can (starring Leonardo DiCaprio), offered Staples an interesting proposition this past spring: He would try to “beat” its exclusive brands of shredders, recommended in an April 6 article in The Wall Street Journal. If he couldn’t restore the tiny particles to readable documents in a few hours, he would endorse the shredders as a means of identity-theft prevention.

Last week, Abagnale kicked off the Staples “Shred Across America” tour as the first public phase of a partnership he entered with the Framingham, Mass., company in August. He will make in-store visits in about 16 select cities through the end of the month to demonstrate the Microcut shredder he read about and couldn’t beat, and the new MailMate.

Additionally, Abagnale, a client of New York-based Axcess Partners, which developed the Staples deal, will also help the office-supply chain develop new products, test the security of software programs, file cabinets and safe boxes, and give his seal of approval to those deemed ultra-secure.

The partnership was still in the “nascent stages” according to Mike Nelson, vp of Staples Brands, but it’s possible that Abagnale could appear in company advertising next year. Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed.

Abagnale has been a leading expert on fraud and identity theft for 31 years to the FBI and corporations including Novell and Unisys since leaving federal prison and his life of crime at age 26.

Nelson said Abagnale’s reputation in b-to-b circles as a security expert will help Staples reinforce its positioning as the go-to destination for office products, especially for small business owners.