An average young woman walks along the pavement in Liverpool, Leeds or Birmingham. A bright red and white van whizzes past her and mounts the kerb. A minor celebrity steps out, proffers her fish ‘n’ chips in exchange for spurious financial documents, steps back in, and drives off. She has been roped into an absurd yet charmless boardroom prank, devised by — whisper it — bankers. Will she, and their other victims, ever feel unpatronised again?
This happened, albeit with careful parking, across the UK last month. Jenson Button — former World Formula 1 Champion — was driving the van. He will be driving it around central London on Monday 6 November. But why? Seriously, why? Because phishing (okay), smishing (umm) and vishing (please help), or so say perpetrators and $3.6 billion profit-makers Santander. Once a lauded Formula 1 driver, now a “scam fighting, itinerant purveyor of fish and chips”. Do not adjust your screen.
Here it is: Santander’s inexplicably convoluted method of updating consumers about email and SMS fraud, and the increasing sophistication thereof, is to invite random street wanderers to brandish either a suspected phishing email — either printed out (seriously) or on screen — or a suspected smishing text in exchange for a free portion of fish ’n’ chips. Or — talk about a scam — battered halloumi ’n’ chips. To think that Brexit is exerting pressure on the restaurant market.
“Santander takes the fight against fraud very seriously,” says Reza Attar-Zadeh, head of customer experience for the UK. “We have seen the life-changing impact it can have on people’s lives. Consumer awareness is absolutely key to tackling what is currently one of the biggest threats to the security of people’s finances.”
“Our Phish & Chips van is a way of delivering our three key fraud prevention messages in an engaging way, while educating people that both banks and consumers have a role to play in keeping the fraudsters at bay.”
To be clear, the role of the bank is here serving fried food out of an expensive marketing hatch; the role of the customer is waving their mobile device of choice at a Monaco-domiciled McLaren ambassador (Jenson is currently on sabbatical). And eating chips. And questioning reality.
While seasoning his chips with salty tears of regret, Button said: “Being behind the wheel of the Phish and Chip van around London was certainly a different driving experience! It was a lot of fun being part of the tour and serving fish and chips to the public in exchange for their scam emails. It’s been eye opening to see how many people receive these emails every day!”
Should any Londoner wish to go phishing, the van will be parked on Cathedral Walk, SW1E 5JE, from 12pm - 1:30pm this Monday 6 November. Lewis Hamilton was unavailable for comment.