Why reporting online scams is important

Illustrated graphic of Richard Branson and some Richard Branson impostors - scam animation
Image from Virgin.com
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
24 January 2020

With online scams on the rise and Richard Branson’s image often appearing on false websites, it was time to do something about it.

To raise awareness of how to spot an online scam, Virgin.com produced a video animation. We spoke to Frances Harding, senior trade mark attorney at Virgin Management, to find out more.

“The animation was created because we were receiving a large number of reports of scamming activity using Richard’s name or the name of one of the Virgin companies and in some cases, people had lost money to scammers,” she explains. “We focused on the most common types of scam that the team see – recruitment, phishing and ‘get rich quick’ schemes. We needed to think about how best we could protect our customers and whilst there are things that we can do – shutting down social media accounts/websites/email addresses etc – we wanted to take a more proactive approach.”

Educating people was the most important aim of the project. Frances says: ”If we could make people aware of what Richard would and would not do, e.g. he does not endorse ‘get rich quick’ schemes, people would be less likely to be caught out. We also wanted to make it easy for people to report scams to us so we created a Report A Scam button for the Virgin.com website.”

Just because the video is a bit of fun, you shouldn’t underestimate just how serious scamming can be. “Not many people talk about scamming openly,” Frances says. “People can sometimes find it embarrassing if they have fallen for a scam and we wanted to create something that people would watch and hopefully reduce the chances of them falling for a scam in the future.”

But what happens when a scam is reported? Frances explains: “After investigating, we will generally use a specialist software company to enforce on our behalf, by effecting social media takedowns, suspending the email addresses used by scammers or fraudcasting websites.”

The team is now expecting to see a higher number of people reporting scams involving Richard Branson, or the Virgin brand. “We hope that the animation will encourage more people to report scams that may not otherwise be picked up and to not believe everything they read, even if it does look legitimate.

“Raising awareness about scamming may also help to reduce the anxieties/embarrassment people may feel about being scammed. The truth is that anyone can be scammed and it’s important that scams are reported to reduce the likelihood of it happening to someone else.”

Read more about what Richard Branson has to say about online scams.