• Santander ’fake job ad’ experiment1 convinces one third of Brits2 to apply for a job as a money mule. Only fifteen per cent rightly identified the role as that of a money mule.
  • Of those who fell for the ad, seven per cent said they would still apply for the job even after they were informed it was a role as a money mule.
  • Those aged 18-24 years were most easily duped, while regionally those in Northern Ireland were most likely to fall for the scam.
  • 71 per cent of people are unaware of the term ‘money mule’ but even when given an explanation of what it is over a quarter thought it may carry no criminal punishment.

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’ is: a technique which criminals use to lure people looking for work into transferring money connected to criminal activity.

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, one in three (32 per cent) said they would definitely apply for the job if they were looking for work. What’s more, one in four (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, seven per cent said they would still accept the job anyway. Only fifteen per cent correctly spotted the role was for a money mule.

Although 91 per cent of Britons are familiar with the term money laundering, almost three quarters (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.

Sixty-nine 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). While around a quarter of people thought the punishment would be no more than a fine or a warning.

This form of criminality is an increasing problem, with the latest official statistics showing that the number of Britons using their bank account for money mule activity has grown by 55 per cent in the past year3. Around four per cent of respondents to Santander’s research believed they, or someone they knew had been approached by a criminal looking to recruit money mules, with this figure doubling to eight per cent for those in the age bracket 18-24 years – that’s around 453,3604 young adults across the UK.

Chris Ainsley, Head of Fraud Strategy at Santander UK, commented: “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.”

Other detail from the research revealed that flexible working was the most appealing aspect (80 per cent) to those who were attracted to the job, followed by low working hours (62 per cent) perceived career progression and personal development (44 per cent).

Those aged 18-24 were the most likely to apply for the job, followed by those in the 25-34 year bracket. Regionally, those based in Northern Ireland came out as the most likely to apply for the job, followed closely by Yorkshire and Humber and West Wales.

Immediately following the conclusion of the experiment, 72 per cent of those taking part have said they will now be more suspicious and cautious of these types of job descriptions in the future.

- Ends -

The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Notes to editors

1. Bogus job description used as part of research can be found below:




2. Research undertaken by OnePoll on behalf of Santander UK in November 2017. The sample was 2,000 British adults aged 18-55+.
3. CIFAS data released 27 November 2017.
4. ONS data Sept 2017 shows the number of 18-24 year olds in the UK is 5,667,000 – eight per cent of this figure is 453,360.

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Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its innovative products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. At 30 June 2017, the bank serves around 14 million active customers with c19,500 employees and operates through 826 branches (which includes 61 university branches) and 65 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful market share in 10 core countries in Europe and the Americas, and is among the world’s top banks by market capitalization. At the end of June 2017, Banco Santander had EUR 1.65 trillion in managed funds, 131 million customers, 13,800 branches and 200,000 employees. Banco Santander made attributable profit of EUR 3.6 billion in the first half of 2017, an increase of 24% compared to the same period last year.

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