Loan sharks operate across all communities and prey on vulnerable people who may have fallen on hard times.
The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are a national team that investigate and prosecute loan sharks. The team works in partnership with Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police to crackdown on unauthorised money lenders and protect residents from this sort of criminal activity.
Loan sharks are relentless in their attempts to lure in victims. In recent cases, loan sharks have been caught posting leaflets through residents’ letterboxes, falsely advertising their lending service to be legitimate. Other, more modern methods have included the use of Facebook Community Selling Pages to promote their illegal loans business.
What is a loan shark?
A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It is a criminal offence to lend money without authorisation and can lead to a two-year prison sentence and/or £5,000 fine.
If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, you might be borrowing from a loan shark:
- Did they offer you a cash loan?
- Did they not give you paperwork?
- Did they add huge amounts of interest or APR to your loan?
- Have they threatened you?
- Are you scared of people finding out?
- Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, watch or other valuables from you?
Remember: You are not in trouble if you have borrowed from a loan shark. It is the illegal money lender who is committing a criminal offence.
Loan sharks normally appear friendly at first but this behaviour can quickly change once repayments are due. These criminals have been known to resort to the most extreme methods such as intimidation, threats and violence to enforce repayment from victims.
Where to get help with loan sharks
The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) can help people who have been the victim of a loan shark.
The team have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity. They have written off more than £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 victims.
To report a loan shark, call the 24-hour confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk. You can also email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or text a report to 078600 22116.
Victims can remain anonymous or give their name when making a report.
If a loan shark is threatening you and you feel you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999 straightaway.
Tomorrow we’ll tell you victim Neil’s story.