Maria Perruzza from Staffordshire has won a national short story competition that warns readers of the dangers of getting involved with a loan shark.
Maria’s story “Don’t Borrow From Baz” is one of seven winning entries in the Stop Loan Sharks Short Story Competition, run by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).
It has been released as part of the Stop Loan Sharks Week campaign, #SharkFreeSurfing, urging people to get advice and support if they have fallen victim to illegal money lending.
Maria, an Enhanced Digital Media Investigator for Staffordshire Police said: “I created the shady character in my story “Don’t Borrow From Baz” because having previously worked in Neighbourhood Policing, I’ve seen the power and influence one person can hold over a community.
“These can often be communities traditionally reluctant to reach out to the police for help. That’s why I felt it was important to get the message out to people who could end up victim to a loan shark like Baz and might feel like there is no one for them to turn to. The fact that a team exists who are experts in this field is fantastic and it really needs highlighting and sharing.”
The IMLT investigates and prosecutes illegal money lenders while supporting those who have borrowed money from a loan shark.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We would like to congratulate Maria Perruzza for her winning entry for the Stop Loan Sharks Short Story Competition.
“Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable people and they are a blight on our communities. They fleece their victims and have been known to use intimidation and violence to get their money.
“We would urge anyone who is suffering at the hands of unscrupulous money lenders, or anyone who has concerns that a friend or loved one may be in danger, to contact us. Our officers and a range of support agencies are here to help, you are not alone.”
A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority. They rarely give paperwork, can often charge extreme amounts of interest and may intimidate or threaten people if they can’t repay.
Written by Maria Perruzza
Every night down the pub, you’ll always see Baz,
At his usual table, surrounded by lads.
Raucous and rowdy, but no-one dares complain,
He’s only recently been let out of prison again.
Baz has connections, he can get what you need,
Money, or motors or the odd bit of weed.
He has associates all over, all round the estate,
And at first, when you meet him, you might think he’s your mate.
Baz has money to spare, from his questionable dealings,
And he’ll lend it to you, which might seem appealing.
Just a quick little loan, till your wages come through,
When the cupboards are empty and the rent overdue.
You’d perhaps go elsewhere, if you had a little more time,
But it’s just fifty quid, so it’ll probably be fine.
The bank could take weeks, and it’s not guaranteed,
But a quick trip to the local and you’ll have what you need.
No forms to fill out and there’s nothing to sign,
Just keep up your repayments and all will be fine.
And each Friday at three, two men come to your home,
And you pay them a fiver and they leave you alone.
When you miss your first payment, and ask them for lenience,
They charge a tenner as ‘interest’, for the mild inconvenience.
The second time you’re late, now you’re really in trouble,
Because you’ve messed Baz around, and now he says you owe double.
And it doesn’t seem fair but you’re scared into silence,
Because they’ve threatened your home and your family with violence.
And the neighbours won’t help you, they’re all afraid too,
Because everyone knows Baz, and knows what he can do.
You pay back what you can, but they still say you owe,
And the debt just gets bigger and continues to grow,
You’re scrimping and saving, and your friends have all wondered,
How it started at fifty, and now it’s five hundred.
You can’t pay one hundred, you can barely pay ten,
Now seven days have gone by and it’s payday again.
And you’re terrified to tell them that you don’t have enough,
Though you’ve worked extra shifts and sold most of your stuff.
Then Baz offers a way you can settle the score,
Just a do him some jobs and you won’t owe any more.
A nice easy way to wipe the slate clean,
Just a few little favours, if you know what I mean?
You don’t want to say yes but it seems there’s no other way,
Because a grand is an amount you could never repay.
And you’re scared for your safety and you feel all alone,
But there is help out there at the end of the phone.
The situation isn’t hopeless, like you might have first thought,
There is a team that will help, provide advice and support.
They prosecute loan sharks and help the victims recover,
And things can get better, as you’ll soon discover.
Loan sharks are criminals, they ruin lives with their greed,
Preying on people in our communities in their hour of need.
But education and training can help you spot them,
And together as a team, we can all help to stop them.
To report a loan shark, call the 24-hour helpline on 0300 555 2222, email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete an online reporting form here. Live chat is available on the website 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.