Cambridgeshire County Council is lending its support to a national campaign aimed at tackling loan sharks and raising awareness of where people can seek help.
The campaign is being led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national team that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks. They also provide specialist support for people affected by this crime.
A loan shark is someone who lends money without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They often tend to initially appear friendly and helpful but can then turn to violent and aggressive behaviour to force victims to repay the loans with huge interest and extortionate penalties.
It’s not always easy to spot a loan shark as they come in many different guises and will at first appear friendly, just part of the community. It’s when you can’t pay that they will turn on you. They could be a regular from the local pub, a parent in the school playground or a friend of a friend.
Loan sharks prey on people at their most vulnerable. Borrowing from a loan shark can seem like an easy option but often it will lead to a vicious cycle of threats, intimidation and spiralling debts.
You will usually find these predators lurking in communities, but they also operate on social media, using dating sites and online groups to find, threaten and control people in debt.
Here are some of the warning signs to watch out for that a lender is acting illegally:
- Giving you no paperwork or agreement on a loan
- Refusing to give you information about the loan
- Keeping items such as your passport and bank card until the debt is paid
- Taking things from you if you don’t pay on time
- Adding more interest or charges so the debt never goes down
- Using intimidation or violence if you don’t pay
- Starting off by being your friend but quickly turning nasty
If you have borrowed money from a loan shark, it is important to remember that you have done nothing wrong and there is no shame in seeking help.
It may seem like a difficult step to take, but there is support available from the England Illegal Money Lending Team.
Credit unions are a safe and legal alternative than borrowing from a loan shark, find out more about the services on offer locally by going to www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk.
Why join a credit union?
✔️ Credit unions are not-for-profit organisations, existing primarily to serve the needs of their members and the communities in which they operate.
✔️ It’s easy to find a credit union that you’re eligible to join. To become a member of the Eastern Savings and Loans Credit Union, you need to live or work in Norfolk, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire.
✔️ Credit unions help members save and manage their money ethically and responsibly. They offer savings and loans at affordable rates, and just like with banks and building societies, your savings are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
✔️ Credit unions may be more willing to offer you a small loan if you have poor or no credit rating. Banks, along with other loan providers, may be reluctant to lend you money for this reason.
It’s easy to check that a lender is authorised before considering a loan by visiting the Financial Services Register online at https://register.fca.org.uk/s/
Residents who believe they may be involved with a loan shark or suspect that one is operating in their area can report it to the Illegal Money Lending Team by calling 0300 555 2222, emailing email@example.com or filling out an online form at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.