A new social media campaign, #SleighNoToLoanSharks, is being launched to alert people to the dangers of using loan sharks and help prevent them from falling into their trap in the run up to Christmas.
Stop Loan Sharks England is concerned that unscrupulous lenders could try to cash in on the festive period as households struggle to cope with rising food and energy bills.
Loan sharks are targeting vulnerable people seeking credit and trapping them into a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates and threats of violence.
A report published by the Centre for Social Justice estimated that almost 1.1 million people could already be in debt to an illegal money lender. This is over 700,000 more people than the most recent official estimate.
Figures released by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) show that nearly one in ten of those who borrowed money from loan sharks last year did so to cover the costs of Christmas.
Loan sharks pose a real and dangerous threat to all communities. They charge exorbitant interest rates and target the most vulnerable with aggressive and exploitative practices. The impact of illegal money lending is severe and far-reaching, with devastating consequences for the mental health and wellbeing of those affected.
The Council’s Trading Standards officers have these safety tips to protect yourself and loved ones from loan sharks:
- If you’re struggling to make ends meet and need cash fast, the thought of a loan shark might seem tempting, but remember these lenders are not your friends. Debt can quickly spiral out of control – it’s important to think carefully before taking out a loan and consider other options.
- Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. This information is valuable so make sure you protect it from criminals who can use it to find and stalk you, harass you or threaten those you love.
- If you’re thinking about borrowing money, it’s important to check that your lender is genuine. Loan sharks operate illegally without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Do your research first and check the firm or person you’re dealing with is listed on the Financial Services Register.
- When exploitative loan sharks are preying on hardship, it’s vital for people to know there is an ethical, local, not-for-profit alternative available. Credit unions are a lifeline for many people, with their services helping members to save regularly, borrow responsibly and keep track of their finances.
There are other community lenders who are mostly not for profit, and who reinvest any surpluses into serving vulnerable customers, who can be found on https://www.findingfinance.org.uk/
Getting trapped in a never-ending spiral of debt after borrowing from a loan shark can have devastating consequences, not only on your finances but also on most other aspects of your life, including your mental health, work and relationships with your family and friends. If you’re worried about a friend or family member, or if you need help yourself, Stop Loan Sharks can offer confidential advice and support.
If you are worried about yourself or a friend or family member who is being taken advantage of by a loan shark, contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222 for support or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.