Father tells of joy at family Christmas without the threat of a loan shark

A father has told how he is looking forward to a happy Christmas this year, free from the grip of a loan shark for the first time in 15 years.

Anthony, 39, borrowed over £10,000 in small loans from someone he thought was a family friend and a legitimate lender over the years to help him through difficult and expensive times, like Christmas.

But following an investigation by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, he was horrified to discover that the lender was not authorised and was in fact a loan shark who had been profiting from his family.

Anthony, a father of four from the West Midlands, said: “I was absolutely fuming. I am so angry that he was effectively profiting from our misfortune. He had taken money off my kids to fund his own life.

“The interest was just horrific. I had to pay back £60 or £70 on top of every £100 I borrowed. Over the years I have borrowed over £10,000, so that’s a lot of profit he has made from me – thousands and thousands of pounds.”

Anthony said Christmas was often the biggest thing he needed to borrow money for and the loan shark knew that, turning up to offer money exactly when it was needed.

“The first loan was £500 and I paid that off, but there is always something that comes up, especially when you have got kids,” he said.

“Christmas was the biggest one, we had two or three loans, maybe even more over the Christmas period. You want your kids to have a good life and you want to be able to have a decent Christmas and make memories with them. If someone is there saying here is some money you can pay back a bit a month, it’s too easy not to do it.”

Anthony believed the lender was legitimate, but when he struggled to repay, he realised something was amiss when he was suddenly faced with threats and intimidation.

That included the lender turning up at his home when he was out and making inappropriate sexual comments to his wife and daughter.

“He really put the pressure on – turning up at my house when my wife was home alone and saying sleazy comments to her like suggesting there were other ways to pay. It got really tough,” he said.

But it was only when officers from the IMLT paid him a visit that he realised the truth.

Another borrower had reported the lender and Anthony was found to be one of a large number of people who had been targeted.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, maybe I should have noticed the signs when he just scribbled it down on a piece of paper, but it was just so easy at the time,” he said.

“It angers me because I have been made to feel like a fool. I have funded someone else’s life and to find out afterwards there were so many other people he was making money off – it just makes me so angry.”

The illegal lender has now been jailed following the IMLT’s intervention and Anthony and his family are looking forward to a Christmas without worrying about an unwelcome visit.

“It’s a vile thing to have hanging over your head – it’s like being stuck in a never-ending hellhole of recycling money,” he said.

“We have been without him for months now and I don’t miss it at all – things have come up but now we just do without if we can’t afford it. Money does make the world go round but it doesn’t bring you happiness. We’re a lot happier now we’re not borrowing from him anymore.

“If anyone is thinking about borrowing from a lender like this I would say just don’t do it. Speak to your family, find a legitimate source to borrow from and start saving for next year. If someone turns up on your doorstep offering you money and it seems too good to be true it will be – it will come back to haunt you.”

The Illegal Money Lending Team, also known as Stop Loan Sharks, investigates and prosecutes illegal lenders and offers support and advice to anyone who may be in debt to an illegal lender.

Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “Christmas is always a testing time when it comes to family finances, but there are safer ways to borrow money if that is needed.

“People should beware of apparently friendly faces appearing to do you a favour by offering loans. It may seem like a simple option, but things can soon turn nasty and you may end up trapped in a cycle of repaying huge amounts of interest and having to borrow again to pay that off.

“If you have been targeted in this way, get in touch with our specialist team in confidence for advice and support.

“We are so grateful to Anthony for sharing his story and we hope it helps anyone who is in the same situation come forward to contact us.”

There are an estimated 1.08 million people in debt to loan sharks in England, according to figures from the Centre for Social Justice.

Signs to look out for include being offered no paperwork, being asked to hand over bank cards or a passport until the debt is repaid, being charged huge amounts of interest and facing threats or intimidation when you can’t pay.

Since its launch in 2004, the IMLT has supported over 31,000 people and written off over £91 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 410 prosecutions for illegal money lending.

Its Christmas campaign for 2023 is urging families to #ShopSmartNotShark and not to resort to illegal lenders if money is tight and consider safer options such as credit unions.

Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending should call the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

This story has been featured on the BBC – listen to the podcast here

It is also online at The Sun here

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