How a Con Man Used Richard Branson to Steal $2 Million
Almost everything about Sir Richard Branson’s life feels like a movie. However, the Virgin founder recently shared a tale that is more akin to a bad episode of “Black Mirror” than a blockbuster hit.
According to Branson, a con man attempted to swindle him out of $5 million by impersonating British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
“Six months ago my assistant received a written note on what appeared to be official government notepaper from Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon, requesting an urgent call with me,” Branson explained in a blog post. “I called Sir Michael on the number given. He told me it was an incredibly sensitive matter and that he wanted to be sure there was nobody else in the room whilst I talked to him.”
Branson went on to explain that the person on the other line claimed a British diplomat had been kidnapped and was being held by terrorists. The person claiming to be Fallon then asked Branson to help pay off the diplomat’s ransom, as the British government could not officially do so.
“I said to Sir Michael that I was sympathetic to his request, but that in the last week I had come across a couple of incidents where people had been scammed,” Brason wrote. “He said he fully understood and that I should send one of my senior team over to his department at Whitehall to have a quiet word with his secretary. He said that she was the only other person who knew about it and that if we said the code word ‘Davenport’, she would affirm it was for real.”
However, Branson said, his feeling of unease persisted, so he called Fallon’s office and upon speaking to his secretary learned that it was clearly a scam.
“I told them what had happened and we passed the matter over to the police,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, the scams didn’t stop there.
While he was offline assisting in the emergency aid effort across the Caribbean, a con man pretending to be Branson swindled a friend out of $2 million.
“They told me that they had received an email from somebody claiming they were my assistant, to arrange a call with me. When the call happened the con man did an extremely accurate impression of me and spun a big lie about urgently needing a loan while I was trying to mobilise aid in the BVI,” Branson wrote. “The business person, incredibly graciously, gave $2 million, which promptly disappeared.”
Branson said he believes both scams were by the same person.
The moral of the story, Branson wrote, was for everyone to simply be cautious about where they give their cash.
“There has been a big rise in fake ad scams online recently, and I’d urge everyone to look out for them and report any you see,” he wrote. “It’s not just online it can happen — it could be on the phone or even in person.”
He's asking for anyone with any information on the perpetuator of the con on his friend to contact his team and police immediately.