Individuals today are at the whim of many different kinds of scams. There are online scams, social media scams, and of course, credit card scammers. What do they all have in common? They are looking to get their hands on your hard-earned money.

But it's not just individuals who get caught up in scams. Today, even the largest companies in the world can be caught off-guard by simplistic, yet effective fraud techniques. In one example, a Lithuanian man was charged for using phishing scams to receive payments of over $100M. Initially unnamed, the companies he scammed were later revealed to be Facebook and Google. 

But it doesn't stop there. Even brilliant CEO's like Richard Branson have been the targets of scams.

In a recent interview, the Virgin Group Founder spoke out about the dangers of money scams. Although the event referenced happened privately, Branson chose to share his close call with CNN to raise awareness about the dangers of scams. During the segment, he also encouraged international police to increase their efforts to stop this sort of fraudulent extortion.

Sounding more like a movie plot than real-life, the scam targeting Branson involved international politicians and a large sum of ransom money. The fraudster, who is still at large, attempted to use Sir Richard's goodwill against him. Lucky for Branson, he caught on just in time. 

 Here are the details on the scam that was unsuccessful:

  • A conman called Branson pretending to be English Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
  • The conman impersonating Fallon then told Branson that a high-level English diplomat was taken hostage. He also suggested that there was a very sensitive reason to get this person back.
  • Although British law does not allow for ransom payouts, the caller told Branson it was imperative to get the diplomat home. To that end, he explained that a syndicate of British businessmen was being pulled together to front the cash.
  •  Branson was then asked to give $5M toward the cause, with the conman assuring that the British Government would find a way to pay him back.
  • Branson immediately called Downing Street and was connected to Fallon's secretary, who informed him they had no information on the situation. 

While Branson got out of this scan unscathed, another businessman did not. And strangely enough, Branson was indirectly involved in the second scam. 

Here are the details of the scam that did succeed:

  • A man pretending to be Branson reached out to an American businessman around the time of Hurricane Irma.

  • In his best Sir Richard impression, the man explained that he was in desperate need of aid money to mobilize and procure resources for the BVI. 
  • In a gracious gesture of goodwill, the businessperson gave $2M to help with the cause.

Branson believes that the same man orchestrated both cons. Although he is well aware of the prevalence of money scams, the ease by which this large-scan con was accomplished left Branson shocked.  

"People used to raid banks and trains for smaller amounts," said Branson. "It's frightening to think how easy it is becoming to pull off these crimes for larger amounts."

Unfortunately, being the target of a scam is a danger of modern life. And scammers today are looking at marks both big and small.