12th January 2018

Brits fooled by Santander's fake job ad for a 'money mule'

One third (32 per cent) of Britons would apply for a job as a money mule, helping criminals to launder money. That’s the finding of an experiment carried out by Santander to shed light on just how convincing the ‘bogus job ad’ - a technique that criminals use to lure people looking for work into transferring money connected to criminal activity - is.

Santander’s experiment involved presenting 2,000 British adults with a falsified job description to work at a fictitious company called Money Spark as a ‘Financial Transaction Control Analyst’. Details of the role included ‘receiving and processing of incoming cash funds’ and ‘transferring of funds to accounts indicated by our managers’.

While some people were suspicious of the description of the role and spotted the tell-tale spelling mistakes and bogus link in the ad, 32 per cent said they would definitely apply for the job if they were looking for work. What’s more, 27 per cent said they would leave their current job to join the Money Spark Company. Alarmingly, upon learning the job was a front for criminal activity, 7 per cent said they would still accept the job anyway. Only 15 per cent correctly spotted the role was for a money mule.

Although 91 per cent of Britons are familiar with the term money laundering, 71 per cent of those taking part had not heard of the term ‘money mule’. The research also suggests that many Britons are not aware of the true risks associated with becoming a money mule; 69 per cent of the ‘applicants’ in the study did not think that becoming a money mule and partaking in the movement of stolen funds (unwittingly or not) could lead to a jail term in excess of three years (money launderers can face a maximum prison sentence of 14 years).

Chris Ainsley, Head of Fraud Strategy at Santander UK, said: “Santander is committed to helping consumers protect themselves against scams and fraud. Criminals often target vulnerable people, such as those desperate for a job, and our research illustrates how easily some people can be tricked into falling victim.

“We are seeing a rise in the number of fake job ads such as the one used in our experiment and raising awareness of the issue is key to preventing people unwittingly getting involved and ultimately facing life changing consequences for their actions.”