Don’t fall into the clutches of a loan shark this Christmas

Christmas is coming – a time of parties, presents, good food and family celebrations. But for many it also brings immense stress, worry and financial pressure.

Loan sharks recognise this and it can be a time of year when they take advantage of the most vulnerable by pretending that they are helping out in a time of need.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which works in partnership with trading standards authorities to investigate and prosecute illegal lenders and support victims, is warning people that however tempting that offer of a cash loan might be and however friendly someone might seem, be aware that there could be a loan shark lurking beneath the surface.

Illegal money lenders are masters of deception, they are not always easy to spot. They could be a neighbour who always stops to chat, a parent who you know from the school gate, a popular work colleague, even a long-standing family friend. In the first half of 2023, 56 per cent of the people supported by the IMLT said they thought they were borrowing from a friend.

And victims often aren’t aware that they have borrowed from a loan shark until it’s too late. Things can quickly turn nasty as they demand extortionate repayments and issue threats of violence when you can’t pay.

There are warning signs to look out for which may all indicate that someone is a loan shark.

They include:

– Being given no paperwork or details about the loan

– The lender demanding repayments that add up to much more than you initially borrowed

– Being intimidated or threatened by the lender if you struggle to pay

– The lender demanding you hand over items like bank cards or a passport until you can pay

If you do need to access affordable credit, the IMLT advises people to contact their nearest credit union, which offer an alternative, ethical and safe way of borrowing for people who may have been refused credit elsewhere. Visit www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk to find one nearest to you.

If you think you have been snared by a loan shark, get in touch with the IMLT as soon as possible in complete confidence. Their specialist officers can offer advice and support and investigate the illegal lender.

To get in touch:

– Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222

– Text a report to 07860 022116

– Join a live chat on the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk (available Monday to Friday 9 to 5)

– E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

– Private message on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

Remember you have done nothing wrong if you have borrowed from a loan shark. It is the lender who has committed a crime.

Make sure you’re not inviting a loan shark into your life this Christmas.

ENDS