Don’t let a loan shark ruin your Christmas:
Christmas can be costly, and this year 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. Anne* a single mum from Manchester was one of these. She tells her story below;
It was coming up to Christmas, and Anne was worrying about affording presents for her two young children. Spotting an advert in her local paper for unsecured loans, she decided to call the number.
A man answered, and told her he would be able to lend her £150, but it would need to be secured on something. He came to her home and took her passport, explaining that this would be returned once she had repaid in full. He explained that she would need to repay £15 each week plus an extra £10 a week in interest. She knew this was steep but she was desperate and believed she would be able to pay back within a few months with her wages from working in a shop.
In the January, Anne fell ill and was unable to work. As a result of this she defaulted on a couple of payments. She was resting at home with her six year old daughter, when the loan shark barged in with two other men, demanding to know why she hadn’t paid. They pulled electrical items out of her living room, claiming the loan was secured against these.
Anne was terrified. “There was nowhere to go” she said “I wasn’t even safe in my own house. I was screaming, crying, pleading with him not take my stuff. To think, that my little girl had to see that.”
A few days later she received a note from the loan shark through her door, to tell her that an extra £100 had been added to the debt for the ‘bailiff’ visit. From that point onwards, she paid the loan shark religiously retaining the post office slips as proof of payment. However the loan shark still appeared at her door, alleging she’d missed payments. He would turn up late at night and on once occasion Anne had to hide, as he tried to climb in through her kitchen window. For every visit he would add an extra charge of £80 to £100.
This continued for 5 years, with Anne paying back around £5000 on the loan of £150.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team caught the loan shark, and discovered Anne was not alone in her experience. The loan shark had around 900 ‘customers’ who he was harassing for payments, he believed to be due. He was given a lengthy custodial sentence and stripped of £270,000, money he had made illegally.
Anne said “It was such a weight of my shoulders. It had got to the point where my nerves were shot and I was too frightened to answer the door. I’d realised he was never ever going to go away. If he hadn’t been arrested I’d probably still be paying him now”
If you believe you have borrowed from a loan shark, contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence as we can help;
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222 Emailreportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks
Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
A very merry Christmas from the England Illegal Money Lending Team
*Name has been changed.