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30 Mar 10:00 GMT / 06:00 EST

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Sun staff identities stolen and police called in to investigate ongoing advertising scam

Fraudsters claiming to work for The Sun are targeting businesses in an elaborate scam, offering last-minute advertising space within the newspaper and stealing the identities of News UK staff in the process.

Warnings: News UK employee Toby Allnut's identity has been used

An unnamed holiday lettings business in the south-west of England is the latest victim of the scam, having lost hundreds of pounds after being duped by an email sent from a genuine email domain for The Sun. News UK confirmed to The Drum that the company is working with police to try and stop the scammers.

“A number of attempted and successful frauds have been reported to News UK recently,” the spokesperson said. “The frauds involve someone posing as a senior member of News UK's advertising team, using a false email address that appears to be genuine, who approaches small businesses to request money for advertorial coverage in The Sun.

“News UK has notified all reported incidents to the police, who are now investigating the evidence provided.”

The Drum has seen correspondence from the scammers dated as recently as 9 August offering a potential customer ad space within a summer breaks supplement. The customer – who wishes to remain anonymous – said a phone call from the scammers claimed £35,000 worth of advertising could be secured for just £500.

Although News UK said the fraudsters are using fake email addresses, the correspondence seen by The Drum comes from the advertising@the-sun.co.uk email domain – which is the contact address listed on the The Sun’s website – and the email lists the correct switchboard telephone number. News UK said the scammers are understood to be primarily targeting businesses in the travel sector.

Some of the emails have claimed to be from the company’s head of classified media, Toby Allnutt, who has displayed warnings on his Twitter and LinkedIn profiles urging anyone who has received correspondence from someone claiming to be him to contact the police.

His LinkedIn profile reads: “Please beware a scam currently in operation using my name to obtain money by deceit.

“If you are approached by somebody claiming to be Toby Allnutt from The Sun please ignore and report to the police.”

David Clarke, managing director of David Clarke Associates, was contacted by the owner of one affected holiday lettings business for advice and spoke of his concerns.

“My fear is the con merchants keep the amounts involved relatively low on the basis that duped businesses will decide not to pursue the fraud vigorously because it is not worth their time in doing so,” he said.

News UK issued a statement on its ad help website in June alerting people to the scam but said the company will take further steps to make businesses aware in light of recent incidents.

“All those whose names appear in the scam have been notified, a warning has been posted on the News UK advertising help page and we are currently looking in to what additional steps we can take to further publicise the scam.”

Anyone in doubt over the authenticity of contact with News UK employees are urged to call 020 7782 7184.

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