After Hurricane Irma struck the British Virgin Islands last month, a scammer impersonating billionaire Richard Branson conned $2 million out of a generous U.S. businessman who believed it was an emergency loan for disaster relief, Branson revealed Tuesday.
“We quickly realized he had been duped out of his money by a criminal pretending to be me,” Branson wrote in a blog post. “He has spent his life being cautious and told me he couldn’t believe how stupid he had been. He is an incredibly generous person who gives to all sorts of causes, and it is just too sad for words that of all people it was he who had fallen for it.”
The billionaire Virgin Group founder owns two private islands in the BVI and has been working to aid the British overseas territory’s recovery after it was devastated by the hurricane. Branson says he was himself targeted by a somewhat similar scam about six months ago, when a fraudster claiming to be the U.K. secretary of state for defense contacted his office, seeking his assistance for a fake under-the-table ransom for a purportedly kidnapped diplomat. Branson asked anyone with information on the $2 million fraud to contact authorities or his company.
“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 warned readers. “It’s not just online it can happen – it could be on the phone or even in person.”