Branson was suspicious and called Sir Michael's office to confirm the legitimacy of the request. The governmental official informed Branson that he had not called making a request and nobody had been kidnapped. The call and request for $5 million was a hoax. He informed the police of the attempted con, Branson says.
"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. It's not just online it can happen — it could be on the phone or even in person," says Branson. "But this one really takes the biscuit!"
Going forward, the billionaire entrepreneur would like to see law enforcement resources currently being used to arrest drug felons redirected toward finding and stopping scam artists.
"This is happening all the time, but worse, it is happening to people for $1000 here, $500 there, $2000 there who can't afford it," says Branson on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday. "I think the police need to put their attention on this much more. The war on drugs has been failed for 60 years. They should regulate and decriminalize drugs and help people with a drug problem and put all those people that are dealing with drugs, they should concentrate on all the vulnerable people that are being hurt in this way I think."
Though most people are unlikely to have millions of dollars available for the stealing, there are certainly precautions worth taking to thwart scams. See the stories below for tips on how to avoid being caught unaware.
Ex FBI agent: 2 things you need to know to avoid falling for a money scam
How to protect yourself from hurricane repair scams
Fraud alert! Don't fall for these financial scams
Buyer beware! The top 10 investment scams
'Shark Tank' investor Robert Herjavec: 7 simple steps to protect yourself from hackers