One third (32 percent) of Britons would apply for a job as a money mule - knowingly helping criminals launder money, according to the results of a fake job advert set up by Santander. When told about the experiment, seven percent said they would still apply for the job, which is shocking.

The fake job ad stated that the employee would be working three to five hours remotely from home for a company named Money Spark and they would have to work on administrative and financial support activities across the wider financial and cost teams. Alarmingly, one in four who were shown the advert said they would leave their current job to join Money Spark before they knew that the ad was fake and of the 2,000 people who participated in the study, only 15 percent correctly guessed that it was for a money mule. In Britain, 91 percent of people do know the term money laundering, however, almost 71 percent are not familiar with the term money mule.

According to the study, 69 percent of participants thought that by taking part in money laundering they would not get a jail sentence of more than three years, whereas in actual fact money launderers can get a sentence as high as 14 years. This form of criminal activity has grown hugely, with a 55 percent growth in the use of bank accounts for this reason in the past year.

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.”

Sarb Sembhi, founder of Virtually Informed, commented to SC Media UK: “There is probably a percentage of the population who would never indulge in any criminal activity, and those would rather do something easy for money especially if it was illegal! However, there are probably many shades of grey in between the two extremes, and we may find that there is the public perception that when someone loses money to criminal activities the criminals may never be caught due to the lack of skills they keep hearing about in the press (both within law enforcement and financial institutions).

“This perception may contribute to the decision to get involved in what they may think is a victimless crime. This sort of thing may be considered the same way as using a mobile phone was several years ago, in that the benefits of answering the phone was greater than the crime, until the public campaigns changed the damage that was really being done.

“The industry and law enforcement have a long way to go to change this perception, both about the skills available to deal with such crimes as well as the punishment.”

Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of web security company High-Tech Bridge adds, "I think it's statistically inaccurate to speak about 1/3 of Britons but
1/3 of unemployed Britons actively seeking [virtually] any job.

“I'd also refer to UK jurisprudence to corroborate the data about the alleged punishments: I doubt that a money mule, with no prior criminal records, would be ever be sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. Depending on many details and factors, s/he will likely get a suspended sentence, probation or even a fine.

“I think even a higher percent of people will get involved in drug trafficking and other, more common, unlawful activities. Poverty is dramatically growing across Europe, and the UK is not an exception unfortunately. Therefore, these findings are predictable and foreseeable.

“The problem is that law enforcement agencies are not prepared for the emerging threat of skyrocketing cybercrime. Scant financing and tremendous lack of qualified personnel makes digital crime investigation almost impossible. Petty offenses in cyber-space are almost never investigated due to the high costs compared to potential benefits, and the situation becomes worse every day."