Billionaire Branson Reveals 2 Crazy Scams—and 1 Worked

Conman impersonates him, scores $2M from a Branson friend
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2017 7:19 AM CDT
Billionaire Branson Reveals 2 Crazy Scams—and 1 Worked
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.   (AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr.)

Billionaire Richard Branson thinks one conman, apparently a master impersonator, is getting rich off his name. In a blog post, the Virgin Group founder reveals two scams in the last year, one of which worked and netted the con artist $2 million. "This story sounds like it has come straight out of a John le Carré book or a James Bond film, but it is sadly all true," he writes. The details:

  • Big payday: In the scam that worked, Branson writes that somebody called up a rich associate pretending to be Branson himself and asked for an emergency loan of $2 million. The associate "incredibly graciously" agreed, and the money is now gone. The trick? The conman took advantage of the news that Branson was stuck on his private island in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and claimed to be unable to reach his bank.

  • Almost: In the scam that failed, a conman (Branson suspects it's the same person) called up Branson and did a spot-on impersonation of British defense chief Michael Fallon. The fake Fallon told an elaborate story about needing $5 million to pay the secret ransom of a kidnapped British diplomat. Branson smelled a rat, however, and subsequently got in touch with Fallon's office, which made clear no such call was ever placed. (Reuters reports that the conman tried the Fallon-impersonating scam with at least one other person.)
Branson says he is now spreading the word to prevent future scams and, with any luck, to get his friend's money back, per the Guardian. (More Richard Branson stories.)

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