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Stop Loan Sharks Week

by Jonathan Kearney

Knowsley Council is working with Stop Loan Sharks to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal money lenders.

The Council is backing the message ‘No Blame, No Shame’ as part of Stop Loan Sharks Week 2024.

Help is at hand for people who are struggling financially or have been the victim of illegal money lenders.

You or someone you know may have debt problems. You can contact your local credit union about safe savings and affordable loans. Knowsley Council can also provide financial advice and signpost you to debt support.

Spot the signs

It can be difficult to know if a relative, friend, neighbour or colleague is in debt to a loan shark.

The signs of an illegal lender include:

  • Being given no paperwork or details about the loan
  • Being told to make repayments that add up to much more than you initially borrowed
  • Being intimidated or threatened you if you struggle to pay
  • Being told to hand over items like bank cards or a passport until you can pay

Loan sharks are expert manipulators, it is often how they persuade people to borrow from them in the first place, and later it’s how they keep people trapped in a cycle of debt.

They will pretend to be a borrower’s friend, and appear to be offering a favour, turning up with a promise of cash just at the point when they need it most.

But instead of finding the expected relief from their financial struggles, borrowers find themselves plunged further and further into debt, and feel trapped with no way out.

In order to maintain control of the borrower, the lender can use a variety of tactics – sometimes it is violence, or threats of violence, but often it is intimidation and the fear that the borrower will be exposed and shamed.

Borrowers are made to feel as though they have done something wrong and become fearful of their family or friends finding out.

But they should feel no blame or shame as they have done nothing wrong.

They have been targeted and exploited by a criminal – the loan shark – and it is them who should carry all the blame and shame, not the borrower.

If someone is lending you money they must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Search their database to see if the lender is legal or call the IMLT on 0300 555 2222 for support.

Loan sharks on social media

A significant proportion of victims meet their loan shark on social media. Loan sharks are increasingly using platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, to advertise illegal loans and target potential victims.

Loan sharks have been known to advertise in community groups and on local selling pages. They may seem friendly and accommodating, but their behaviour can quickly change, and you might be harassed or threatened if you get behind with your repayments.

How to protect yourself from loan sharks online

Know who you’re dealing with. If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a lender, take some time to do a bit more research.

Check the lender is authorised by the FCA. If not, don’t borrow from them – report to the Stop Loan Sharks team.

Lenders must carry out credit checks to make sure borrowers can afford to pay back their loans. You should never hand over your bank details to strangers, even if they lure you with attractive offers. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Beware of any requests for your details or money. Loan sharks may ask for copies of your passport or pictures of your house, the street and your house number. Never send money or give card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.

Help and support

In 2023, Stop Loan Sharks supported almost 800 people who had borrowed from loan sharks, helping them escape the clutches of their lender.

Stop Loan Sharks has a team of specialist officers who recognise this and have the tools and experience to help people in this position escape the clutches of the illegal lender and start the journey back to financial safety. They are there to help and will not judge.

This year is the 20th anniversary of Stop Loan Sharks. Over the past two decades, it has supported over 31,500 people, written off over £91.2 million worth of illegal debt and secured over 416 prosecutions for illegal money lending, leading to 598 years in jail.

If you think you have been targeted by a loan shark, you can contact Stop Loan Sharks by calling the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222 or joining the live chat which is available on the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

For further information on the support available and how to get in touch, visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk

Stop Loan Sharks App

Free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play or scan the QR code. The app includes a contact form and phone number to report loan sharks, as well as information to help victims of illegal money lending to get support. Users can receive push notifications about loan shark arrests and cases in their area.