In 1963, teenaged Frank Abagnale lives in New Rochelle, New York with his father Frank Abagnale, Sr., and French mother Paula. When Frank Sr. is denied a business loan at Chase Manhattan Bank due to unknown difficulties with the IRS, the family is forced to move from their large home to a small apartment. Paula carries on an affair with Jack, a friend of her husband. Meanwhile, Frank poses as a substitute teacher in his French class. Frank’s parents file for divorce, and Frank runs away. When he runs out of money, he begins relying on confidence scams to get by. Soon, Frank’s cons increase and he even impersonates an airline pilot. He forges Pan Am payroll checks and succeeds in stealing over $ 2.8 million.
Meanwhile, Carl Hanratty, an FBI bank fraud agent, begins tracking Frank. Carl and Frank meet at a hotel, where Frank convinces Carl his name is Barry Allen of the Secret Service, and that he was also after the fraud. Frank leaves, Carl angrily realizing a minute too late that he has been fooled. Later, at Christmas, Carl is still at work when Frank calls him, attempting to apologize for duping Carl. Carl rejects his apology and tells him he will soon be caught, but laughs when he realizes Frank actually called him because he has no one else to talk to. Frank hangs up, and Carl continues to investigate, suddenly realizing (thanks to a waiter) that the name “Barry Allen” is from the Flash comic books and that Frank is actually a teenager.
Frank, meanwhile, has expanded his con to include the identities of a doctor and lawyer. While playing Dr. Frank Conners, he falls in love with Brenda. While asking her father’s permission to marry her, he admits the truth about himself and asks for help with the Louisiana State Bar exam. Carl tracks him to his engagement party and Frank is able to sneak out a bedroom window minutes before Carl bursts in. Before leaving, Frank makes Brenda promise to meet him in Miami two days later so they can elope. Frank sees her waiting for him two days later, but also notices plainclothes agents waiting to arrest him; realizing he has been set up, he escapes on a flight to Europe.