As a result of the pandemic, many people are facing financial hardship through furlough, redundancy, and unemployment. Loan sharks may look to take advantage of people in a vulnerable position who feel that they have nowhere to turn to for help when it comes to borrowing money.
A loan shark is someone who runs a money lending business without the permission to do so from the Financial Conduct Authority and that is a criminal offence. Borrowing from a loan shark may seem like the only option when money is tight, but the long-term consequences can be financially crippling. One person borrowed £75 to buy school uniforms and ended up paying back over £30,000 – another borrowed £250 and paid back over £90,000 altogether. And that’s not all – the anxiety and fear relating to these debts can have a huge impact on mental health.
Signs to look out for:
• You or someone you know has been offered a cash loan or bank transfer with no paperwork or credit checks
• You have been threatened if you couldn’t pay
• You’ve had your bank card/passport/driving licence etc taken from you as “security” on the loan
• You have a debt which keeps growing even though you’re making payments
• You have borrowed from someone you thought was a friend
• You’ve handed over nearly or all of your wages and/or benefits to someone you owe money to
• You may be having suicidal thoughts because of the debt and the pressure, anxiety and feelings of isolation that you are experiencing.
Help is available:
Contact the police if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
Check the validity of a lender by visiting the FCA website www.fca.org.uk and using the search facility. Report the lender immediately to the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) if they are not approved or their licence has been suspended or revoked.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is a specialist Trading Standards team which investigates and prosecutes loan sharks as well as supporting their victims. They have helped over 31,500 people escape the clutches of illegal lenders and can provide emotional and practical support to anyone who has been affected by this crime. If you or anyone you know, is experiencing any of the above or has any knowledge of any loan shark activities or victims in Devon & Cornwall, you can contact the IMLT in confidence on 0300 555 2222.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete an online form to request support at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Anyone reporting a loan shark or requesting support can remain completely anonymous. Any information received will be fully investigated and treated in the strictest confidence.
Westcountry Savings & Loans (www.westcountry.org.uk) is a savings and loans co-operative (credit union) for those living or working in Devon & Cornwall and the wider South West. They offer a safe and secure way to save while providing access to affordable lending.