Richard Branson joins war on £190bn online scammers

virgin scamVirgin founder Sir Richard Branson is taking matters into his own hands in an effort to tackle the rise of rogue firms which are using his name and image in online ads to scam consumers out of their hard earned cash.

Fake endorsements are commonplace online, with scammers targeting those who comment or post on social media pages, including Branson’s own profile.

It is claimed that all too often scammers will share links and ask for fees or information in order to “phish” for personal data.

While many consumers may reckon they can spot a scam at a hundred paces, cases of fraud, including online scams, are the most common crime in the UK, and cost British businesses and consumers £190bn every year, according to the Office of National Statistics.

In 2017, Branson himself was targeted by a scammer posing as a government official, who requested financial assistance to pay the ransom for a supposed kidnapping victim.

Now the Virgin founder has released an animated campaign in which a cartoon version of the billionaire recounts the ways fraudsters have used his name and likeness in the past and exposes the common tactics they use. Branson offers advice on how to tell what real engagement looks like, and what to do if you suspect you are dealing with a fake.

“Animated” Branson points out: “Scammers are contacting people who post on our social feeds. Even if it’s a verified account, know that I never direct message anyone, nor does my team. I never endorse any get-rich-quick schemes – this is a sure-fire way to lose your investment.”

To step up the fight against scammers, Virgin has opened its own reporting portal and urges anyone affected to report any cases featuring Branson or Virgin brands that seem suspicious.

Virgin also recommends reporting it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime centre, via its website>

Branson said: “At Virgin, we’re working hard to unmask scammers. Only trust what we post on our official channels. Help us stop scammers and report anything you think is suspicious. If you think it’s a con, send it on.”

Last year, founder Martin Lewis forced Facebook to launch a new scam reporting feature to make it much easier for users to report rogue ads appearing on the site, which had used his image illegally.

The scheme was just one of the measures which Facebook had promised to introduce after it secured an out of court settlement with Lewis, who was suing the company for defamation. Lewis dropped the case in January 2019 after Facebook vowed to introduce the tool as well as donate £3m to a new Citizens Advice project.

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