People suffering financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic are being urged to avoid loan sharks who cause profound misery and stress to their victims.
Loan sharks are unregulated, often give cash loans without any paperwork and charge extortionate interest rates.
In most cases, victims are introduced to the lender either through a friend, family member or because they are known in the community. Victims believe the loan shark is offering them a service, but their behaviour can quickly change if repayments are not met.
Some of the tell-tale signs of loan sharking include cash loans without paperwork, use of benefit or bank cards as security and threatening behaviour or violence to get money.
The England Illegal Money Lending (IMLT) is a national team that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks. They also have a LIAISE team that provides emotional and practical support to help victims escape their exploiters. The Stop Loan Sharks helpline service (0300 555 2222) remains open and fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also use the contact form to request a call back at a time that’s safe for you.
The IMLT encourages not only victims but friends, family members and the wider community to come forward if they suspect someone is suffering at the hands of loan sharks.
The specialist team have secured more than 390 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 480 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have also written off a staggering £75 million worth of illegal debt and helped more than 29,000 people escape the clutches of loan sharks.
How to spot a loan shark and report illegal money lending
If you can answer yes to one or more of the questions below you might be borrowing from a loan shark:
- Did they offer you a cash loan?
- Did they not give you paperwork?
- Did they add huge amounts of interest or APR to your loan?
- Have they threatened you?
- Are you scared of people finding out?
- Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, watch or other valuables from you?
You can check if a company is authorised to lend money and report loan sharks anonymously at www.loansmart.org.uk.