Robbie Savage explains why he joined up with Santander in spoof fraud advert


It is one of the most iconic scenes in Oscar-winning financial film The Big Short.

Actress and model Margot Robbie pops up in a bubble bath with a glass of champagne to explain, in plain English, the world of subprime mortgage-backed securities, which helped trigger the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

Now, in a spoof video which almost has to be seen to be believed, Robbie is replaced in the bathtub by another blonde bombshell with the same name; BBC football pundit and former player Robbie Savage.

The two Robbies: Robbie Savage gave his best impression of Margot Robbie in The Big Short (above) as the pundit jumped into a bubble bath to talk about fraud with Santander

The two Robbies: Robbie Savage gave his best impression of Margot Robbie in The Big Short (above) as the pundit jumped into a bubble bath to talk about fraud with Santander 

Swilling champagne, the tattooed former Blackburn, Leicester and Derby midfielder, explains he’s about to get ‘hot and steamy over the technical terms of fraud’, having shot the advert with Santander to raise awareness about so-called safe account scams.

Despite aping Robbie’s cameo, Savage told This is Money he had never actually seen the film when Santander came calling.

‘My agent rang me up and said would you be interested in doing a campaign for Santander’, he said.

‘I knew of the brand, and I’ve seen the adverts on the TV with the sporting stars, all bigger than me by the way. 

‘I was quite shocked they picked someone who hasn’t won anything in their career.

‘When my agent sent me the clip I said “are you sure, is that for me?”‘

Although declaring in the video the public have spoken and labelled him ‘the sexier Robbie’, he admitted, ‘I’ve seen the clip numerous times, I still think Margot Robbie did it better than me.’

But, he said, the advert was ‘a light-hearted take on a serious topic.’

He isn’t wrong about that. Santander’s figures show there was a 53 per cent rise in ‘safe account’ scams between 2018 and 2019, with the average victim losing £5,364.

These scams, where a victim is contacted by a fraudster telling them their account is compromised and that they need to move it to a safe account, form one element of a wider group of bank transfer scams which cost victims £456million last year.

The former midfielder said he was down to get hot and steamy over the technical terms of fraud, as Santander research found safe account scams rose 53% between 2018 and 2019

The former midfielder said he was down to get hot and steamy over the technical terms of fraud, as Santander research found safe account scams rose 53% between 2018 and 2019

The numbers lost to the fraud keep rising and it means banks are increasingly trying to think outside the box in order to combat them. 

Earlier this year This is Money spoke to Maria Konnikova, a Harvard and Columbia educated psychologist and poker player who had been brought in by Lloyds to help with their fraud warnings.

Last year, Santander shot another round of quirky adverts about fraud with the cast of BBC mockumentary People Just Do Nothing.

If it wasn’t because he saw Margot Robbie in a bubble bath and thought he could do a better job, why did Savage get involved?

Santander has previously shot adverts with Rory McIlroy, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jenson Button, as well as a series of tongue-in-cheek fraud warnings with the cast of mockumentary 'People Just Do Nothing'

Santander has previously shot adverts with Rory McIlroy, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jenson Button, as well as a series of tongue-in-cheek fraud warnings with the cast of mockumentary ‘People Just Do Nothing’

Drawing a link to football phone-in show 606, which he has been co-hosting with Chris Sutton and Alistair Bruce-Ball even while the football season was suspended, he said: ‘If you’ve been inside for a number of weeks, you know, not seeing family and friends you can be very vulnerable.

‘The bigger thing for me was that people were ringing up and the passion for football is there as always, and some people just wanted to ring up and talk to us.’

He added: ‘That’s why I did the Santander campaign, you know, it’s been brilliant, because lots of people at this moment in time are very vulnerable.’

One of those is his 72-year-old mum, who has been self-isolating due to having COPD – a lung condition – and diabetes.

Savage revealed he took part in the adverts because of concerns over people being lonely, isolated and vulnerable during the coronavirus lockdown, including his mother

Savage revealed he took part in the adverts because of concerns over people being lonely, isolated and vulnerable during the coronavirus lockdown, including his mother

‘The last thing I would want is my mother panicking if the phone went and you had one of these safe account scams’, he said. ‘I said to her you’ve got to put the phone down and ring me straightaway.

‘I know how to handle it because I’ve been through the training, I had a Zoom call with Santander which they’ve done, they do an online course and classes which provide information about the scam, for me it’s all been great.’

A couple of attempts at fraud have been made to him during lockdown, he said, with a few voicemails being left on his phone.

Savage is no stranger to that, with the midfielder the subject of one unusual voicemail-related story over a decade ago. 

Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane, then manager of Sunderland, was in talks to sign him away from Blackburn Rovers, but couldn’t get through to arrange a meeting due to a lack of signal, he revealed in his autobiography. 

I was a saver and wanted to invest for my future

Robbie says he wished he’d had the people he had in his life around when he was playing to help manage his finances.

‘I’ve surrounded myself with very good people in the industry of accountancy and people who are very skilled in their fields’, he said. ‘I just wish I had met them when I was a footballer.

‘I was a saver, I wanted to invest for my future and I just wished that the people I have surrounded myself with now were the people I had had throughout my career. 

‘You know, you trust people when you’re a footballer, and you can be let down badly, so, it’s something that you know still affects me to this day.

‘But now we move on we’re in a position today where trust is huge, and luckily for me now it’s taken me a while to find some people that I can trust and rely on.’

He said if his eldest son Charlie, who is 17 and an academy prospect at Manchester United, made it as a footballer ‘I will guide him and point him in the right direction.’

Robbie Savage tweeted out the advert at the end of last week

Robbie Savage tweeted out the advert at the end of last week 

Instead, he was greeted with Savage’s voicemail recording, where the midfielder had recorded his own version of the ‘Whassup’ message made famous in a Budweiser advert. 

Keane never called him back, and Savage went to Derby County instead.

The worst part was that he never found out why Keane didn’t meet with him until his autobiography came out.

Asked whether any of the scammers who left him a voicemail received that particular greeting, Savage laughed and said, ‘I’ve learnt my lesson with that one.

‘That cost me a move to play for one of the best midfielders the Premier League’s ever seen. 

‘I was very young and energetic, and I’ve certainly done things with my past, I don’t regret it because at the time that was a very famous advert and it was just a bit of banter really, in that football environment. 

‘But it seemed to have backfired.’

Savage, who has presented football phone in 606 on BBC Radio 5 Live throughout the suspension of the football season, asked a question at the coronavirus briefing on 21 May

Savage, who has presented football phone in 606 on BBC Radio 5 Live throughout the suspension of the football season, asked a question at the coronavirus briefing on 21 May

Aside from being cold called by scammers, jumping into bubble baths and talking football on the radio, Savage said of lockdown: ‘I’ve become a very good gardener, as lots of people have done. I’ve turned my garage into a gym. 

‘That gives me great pleasure because that’s routine, that helps me mentally.’

And he’s also enjoyed spending 12 weeks with his two boys, the eldest of which is, like Savage was once, a Manchester United academy prospect, and his wife.

Now the football season’s back, something he said he’s ‘delighted’ about, he might have a bit less time on his hands.

Normally, busy people or those in a rush or otherwise stressed tend to be easier targets for fraudsters. But now he knows the ins and outs of fraud, don’t expect him to pick up and ask: ‘Whassup’.

Government warns against scoring an own goal against fraudsters 

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has urged fans to be wary and look after themselves as they swap their tickets for TV subscriptions as the Premier League returns in full.

The NCSC said hackers could break into customers’ accounts if they use weak passwords, like the name of their favourite football team, and steal their personal details.

It recommended people with sports subscription services:

  1. Reset the password to one they haven’t used before
  2. Use a different password to their email address made up of three random words. 280,000 accounts compromised last year used the word ‘Liverpool’, and 216,000 used ‘Chelsea’, the NCSC said.
  3. Turn on automatic updates and patch your streaming service to its most recent version, so any potential bugs or breaches are ironed out 

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