Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson has warned his blog’s readers against the dangers of cryptocurrency scams. His latest blog post, “Beware of fake bitcoin scam stories”, conveys his concerns about very real bitcoin scam stories - especially those which include his name.
Branson is very quick to mention his support for blockchain technology, and in a 2013 blog post he wrote that it was “about time” that Virgin Galactic began accepting Bitcoin to pay for flights. As a fan of the technology and the democratized, openly competitive market it would bring, he nonetheless hoped for a modicum of regulation in what was already a field prone to scams.
However, the latest warning is not so much about the technology or its use, but in particular about his name being attached to the marketing material attracting attention. He specifically points to the fact that scammers had created advertisements with quotes from himself and Bill Gates. In particular, he makes the claim that, “They link through to scam sites like Bitcoin Trader…”
Branson’s warning is unusual for its focus on cryptocurrencies, but protecting oneself against scams is a common theme for him. Previous warnings covered travel scams, online scams, and as with this post, misleading advertising that uses his name.
Other celebrities have made public statements about cryptocurrency scams faking their endorsements. In April, British consumer rights advocate and television star Martin Lewis sued Facebook for allowing fraudulent advertising showing his likeness and fake quotes on its platform.
Lewis, like Branson and Gates, is using both corporate feedback and legal means to remove the illegal ads. However, Lewis recognizes the magnitude of the problem. Getting sites to remove the ads takes time, but once done, "scammers just launch a new, nearly identical campaign very soon afterwards."