Frank Abagnale Jr, 16 years old, lives happily in 1964 New Rochelle, New York with his father Frank Abagnale Sr and French mother Paula. When a loan for Frank Sr. is denied at Chase Manhattan Bank, due to a series of IRS tax frauds by Frank Sr, the family is forced to move from their grand home to a small apartment.
Paula carries on an affair with Jack, a friend of her husband. In the meantime, Frank poses as a substitute teacher in his French class. Shortly, Frank's parents file for divorce, and Frank, scared, runs away. When he runs out of money, he begins to use confidence scams. Frank's cons grow ever bolder and he even impersonates an airline pilot. He forges Lufthansa & Pan Am payroll checks and succeeds in stealing more than $2.8 million.
Meanwhile Carl Hanratty, an FBI bank fraud agent, begins to track down Frank with little help from his superiors. Carl and Frank meet in a hotel, where Frank convinces Carl his name is Barry Allen of the Secret Service.
Frank leaves, with Carl angrily fooled. Later, at Christmas, Carl is still working when Frank calls him, attempting to apologize for duping Carl. Carl rejects his apology and tells him that he will soon be caught, but laughs when he realizes that Frank actually called him because he has no one else to talk to. Frank hangs up, and Carl continues to investigate. At a restaurant, a waiter points out to Carl that Frank's false name, "Barry Allen," is from The Flash comic books. Carl then realizes that Frank is probably a teenager.
Frank, meanwhile, has not only switched to becoming a doctor and a Louisiana lawyer, but has also fallen in love with a girl named Brenda. Carl tracks him to his engagement party where Frank admits the truth about himself to Brenda and asks her to run away with him. As he escapes, he asks Brenda to meet him in two days so they can elope.
At the Miami International Airport, Frank sees her waiting as agreed, but he spots FBI agents everywhere and realizes that he has been set up (with Brenda as the bait) and posing as a representative for Pan-Am, goes to a nearby girl's college to "recruit" girls to be "stewardesses-in-training," and returns to the airport the next day, using the girls that he recruits as a distraction to the FBI agents, making his escape to Europe. Seven months later, Carl shows his boss that Frank has been forging checks all over the world and that he is out of control. He wants permission to fly to Europe to look for him. When his boss denies him the permission, Carl takes Frank’s checks to professional printers who deem that they were printed in France. Remembering that Frank’s mother, Paula, was born in Montrichard, France, Carl goes there where he finds Frank. He tells him the French police will kill him if he does not go with Carl quietly.
Frank assumes he is joking, but Carl assures Frank he would never lie to him, and Carl takes him outside, where the French police escort him to prison. Carl promises to have him extradited to the U.S. The scene then flashes forward to a plane returning Frank to the U.S. from France. Carl informs him that his father has died. Consumed with grief, Frank escapes through the bathroom plumbing and out the landing gear when the plane lands in New York. He goes back to his old house, where he sees his mother and Jack Barnes, as well as a little girl that Frank realizes is his half-sister. Frank gives up and is sentenced to prison, getting occasional visits from Carl.
On Monday, though delayed, Frank does return, and finally reveals to Carl that not all of his careers were cons—Frank passed the Louisiana Bar exam by studying for it for two weeks.
FBI and large corporations in check fraud and security.