Even billionaires aren’t safe from con men.
Richard Branson has faced not one, but two instances of million dollar scams, he recounted on his blog this week.
Branson explained that six months ago his assistant received a note “on what appeared to be official government notepaper” from British Secretary of Defense Sir Michael Fallon, requesting an “urgent” phone call. When Branson called the number provided in the note, he was told “in confidence” that a British diplomat had been kidnapped and was being “held by terrorists.”
The person on the phone told him that British law prevented the government from paying ransoms, but in this particular instance, they were asking for the help of British businesspersons to “step in.” Branson himself was asked to contribute $5 million.
While the man on the line “sounded exactly like Sir Michael,” Branson explains, he wanted to be sure of the man’s identity and the veracity of his request. When Branson called Downing Street (the headquarters of the British government and the Prime Minister’s residence), Defense Secretary Fallon’s assistant said that Fallon had not called Branson and that no one had been kidnapped.
More recently, following Hurricane Irma, Branson was asked by a “very successful businessman” when he would return the money for the loan Branson had ostensibly asked for to support the communities in the British Virgin Islands.
Branson goes on to write that he had no knowledge of the loan, and quickly discovered that this businessman had been conned by a man posing as Branson, asking for $2 million to mobilize aid in the BVI. “Branson” reportedly claimed that he was unable to reach his bank in the U.K. and was therefore asking the businessman for the loan in the interim. Unfortunately, this businessman was not as lucky as Branson and fell for the ruse.
Branson concluded his post by explaining that he is publicizing these occurrences to raise awareness about scams such as these, and asked anyone with any information to speak to U.S. authorities or to get in touch with Virgin.