As more and more people find themselves strapped for cash, illegal money lenders more commonly known as loan sharks have been known to take advantage. These criminals are to be avoided at all costs. They offer loans without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority and as such, are breaking the law.
An estimated 310,000 households borrowed from a loan shark this year, with some victims saying they took out a loan to fund Christmas. Often people find that they are paying for this well into the New Year and beyond.
Loan sharks can target those who would struggle to access credit through legitimate sources. They are often friends with the borrower at first but once payments are missed many will become intimidating, threatening or violent.
Loan sharks rarely offer paperwork, keeping their borrowers in the dark. They will often refuse to tell the borrower how much they owe, how much longer they have to pay and how much interest they are paying on top ( in some cases interest has been as high as a staggering 131,000% APR).
Loan sharks gain complete control of the victims and their finances. In some cases the loan sharks have taken the borrowers bank and post office card with the PIN to withdraw directly from their accounts, leaving them with nothing or very little to get by on.
As these debts are usually not enforceable in law, many loan sharks will resort to bully tactics to enforce repayment.
However help is at hand from a national team, cracking down on loan sharks. The England Illegal Money Lending Team will investigate and prosecute loan sharks for illegal money lending and any offences linked to this. In the past this has included blackmail, threatening behaviour, violence, kidnap, drugs offences and rape. We are urging anyone who has borrowed from a loan shark to contact us in confidence.
More than 332 prosecutions have been secured leading to 212 years worth of custodial sentences, and more than 26,000 victims have been helped.
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks
Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject