Has a major newspaper been used as a front to scam people of money?

In what is likely going to be one of the most alarming and noteworthy stories in recent months, it has been discovered that a series of frauds have been perpetrated by criminals pretending to be members of the journalism staff at The Sun. According to a number of victims who have come forward, these fraudulent calls have involved the criminals making claims that the victims would be allowed to feature in the paper for a fee that would later be refundable.

What is so fascinating about this particular scam is the degree to which the criminals were able to mimic the staff at The Sun. According to one of the victims, “What made this so shocking and clever was that they called me from the Sun’s number and emailed from the Sun’s email address…” With this information in mind, it seems much more reasonable why these victims were convinced that the offer they were receiving was, indeed, genuine.

When asked to comment on the issue, a member of the staff at The Sun stated, ““We have had about 15 [cases] reported to us and, as soon as that has happened, we have referred them to the police.” Have more incidents of this particular fraud occurred? The stigma associated with fraud victimisation has likely led many individuals who may have been affected in this particular case to remain silent. Many of those who have come forward have also chosen to remain anonymous.

Although the details of each scenario outlined by those victims who have come forward varies slightly, one particular incident is quite interesting. According to one of the victims, who has chosen to remain anonymous, a man pretending to be a member of the staff at the paper contacted them and explained that the paper was currently running short on content. In order to meet its pending deadline, the individual explained, the paper would send a reporter to interview the victim. That being said, the fraudster then explained that the reporter must be paid for by the victim. However, following the acceptance of the story by the paper, the funds would be returned. According to the victim, “He asked me to email him an image of the bank transfer to the writer. I did. He told me she [the freelance journalist] would call me shortly. I waited. I waited. My heart started beating. I called the Sun and, after a second attempt, they finally said there was a scam going on like that and that they were investigating…”

In retrospect, of course, it may seem slightly more obvious that such a claim would, indeed, be fraudulent. However, given the degree of authenticity which the scammers were able to display, it is no surprise that so many have been duped by them.

The Sun has released yet another statement claiming that every case of fraud related to this particular incident has now been forwarded to the UK’s national fraud and internet crime centre, referred to as Action Fraud. Although the perpetrators behind this scheme have yet to be apprehended, the paper hopes to spread awareness of the scam in order to ensure that others can remain vigilant and be on the alert in the event a similar call comes through to them.

Is there a method by which an individual can fully protect themselves against internet or telephone fraud? Given the fact that so many of these schemes are quite elaborate, it can be difficult to say with 100% that any individual is truly “protected”. Organisations such as Action Fraud continue to emphasise that those who have any doubt at all regarding the claims of a caller or in-person encounter should contact the appropriate authorities before engaging in a transaction. Only through such early actions can the likelihood of fraud be reduced nationwide.

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Isuru Karavita

He graduated from the university of Hertfordshire with a BEng(Hons) in Digital Communication and Electronic Engineering. 

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