Our guest blogger today works for the England Illegal Money Lending Team, part of Birmingham Trading Standards. The team aim, through their Stop Loan Sharks project, to find and prosecute loan sharks.
In the run up to Christmas, as many people are struggling for cash, we’re urging people to avoid illegal money lenders at all costs. The vitally important thing to remember is this: Don’t let a loan shark ruin your Christmas.
With around 310,000 families across the country using loan sharks, situations like this are becoming an all-too-familiar tale (read Anne’s loan shark story here). Many victims felt that their lender was a friend, but as soon as a payment was late or missed they became intimidating or violent.
“It’s caused stress and disruption to my whole life. I had to relocate, change the kids’ schools and start afresh. The experience has led to depression and I now have to take medication to help and support my sleep. It has lead to breakdowns in relationships, living in poverty and disruption to all parts of my life.”
Loan sharks often prey on those who would struggle to obtain credit through legitimate means. Motivated by their own greed they will often trap borrowers into a never ending spiral of debt. Many will charge extortionate interest rates; the highest we’ve seen was a whopping 131,000%.
Loan sharks rarely offer paperwork so ‘customers’ are in the dark about how much they still owe. Some will even take bank, benefit or post office cards with PIN numbers to withdraw directly from people’s accounts, leaving them with very little to get by on.
People are left in a position where they’re unable to pay and other expenses such as rent and bills fall by the wayside. This is when the loan sharks resort to any means to reclaim what they believe is theirs.
Loan sharks are acting illegally. Their debts cannot be enforced through the law and there is no legal requirement for the borrower to continue paying. If you have borrowed from an illegal money lender you have not committed a crime; they have.
If you need help it’s available, free of charge and confidentially, from the England Illegal Money Lending Team, part of the Stop Loan Sharks project. We’ve secured over 190 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 117 years-worth of custodial sentences, plus an indefinite sentence.
Loan sharks are often involved in other criminality so the team have prosecuted for offences including blackmail, violence, threats to kill, drugs offences, kidnap and even rape.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team have helped changed the lives of more than 16,000 victims of loan sharks. One loan shark victim who was referred to us by our team spoke of how she had turned her life around.
“For the first time in many years I’m in control of my finances, I’ve taken out employment insurance for sickness cover, I’ve opened a savings account and I’m adding to it each month. I’m no longer overdrawn and I plan to be debt free by the time I retire in three years time”
We’re a Stop Loan Sharks partner and they’ve been working closely with us to devise an action plan and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks.
To report a loan shark: