A scammer claiming to work for this newspaper has been targeting firms in south London.

We have had reports from customers of a man pretending to be an employee with us saying he has space left in a 'Trust My Garage' advertisement feature, with slots costing £26.

The man, often calling from a witheld number, pressurises the customers to pay by card over the phone.

Since yesterday, we have had numerous reports - including one customer having £600 taken and another attempt to withdraw £300.

Newsquest south west London team leader Kerry Ryan said: "We are getting an increasing number of calls about this. They are being really sneaky. They have already had at least £600 in a day from just one call."

The Independent Garages Association yesterday put out an alert warning members to be vigilant.

The IGA reported that the scam had been identified across the West Midlands but we have now had reports scammers have been impersonating our brands, including Sutton Guardian, Epsom Guardian and Croydon Guardian.

Its warning said: "Scammers have been calling garages claiming to be from a local newspaper, asking if they would like to place a low cost advert (around £25) as an offer in conjunction with the RMI. The caller may know a lot about your business, including staff names and trade associations you belong to, and so far they appear to be targeting independent garages who have previously placed adverts in the newspaper.

"The caller is encouraging businesses to secure their advertising place by paying for it over the phone but attempts to take a large amount, in some cases up to £5,000, from the account. In all cases we are aware of, the bank has blocked the fraudulent activity and the police have been informed."

If you become aware of any suspicious activity, report it to the IGA Member Helpline on 0845 305 4230.