Migrant charity releases video warning of loan shark dangers

Loan sharks are criminals who lend money at extremely high-interest rates and enforce repayment with threats and intimidation. This means that anyone who gets involved with one may end up paying much more than they borrowed and their safety can be jeopardised.

A new video has been released to help raise awareness of the risks associated with illegal lending, so families can make informed safe decisions when it comes to borrowing money.

Tulia is an organisation based in Coventry, providing expert legal advice and support to migrants and refugees in the UK, Europe and Africa.

Tulia’s team of volunteers have been working hard to help people who are seeking asylum or refugee status. Since 2017, they have helped hundreds of people gain access to the legal system and have provided practical training programs, which focus on essential life skills and career development.

In response to concerns that loan sharks are targeting migrant communities, Tulia have joined forces with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) to run a video awareness campaign.

The new video featuring Fari’s story can be found on YouTube. It highlights the dangers of dealing with loan sharks and shows the financial pressures put on some young black professionals to share their income with their families – even if sometimes they can’t afford it. This can leave them struggling to make ends meet and at greater risk of being sucked into the loan shark trap.

In the video, Fari is desperate to help pay for his dad’s medical bills back home, so he tries to sell some of his possessions and contemplates borrowing money from a loan shark. He discovers that borrowing money this way comes with a high cost and can lead to devasting consequences in the future.

Some good advice from this short film is to never borrow money online from someone you do not know. It can be tempting, but it’s not worth it.

Rumbi Bvunzawabaya, Founder of Tulia Group, said: “When we think of an extortion racket, most of us think of loan sharks. These ruthless criminals prey on low-income, desperate families and individuals.

“Migrant families and new arrivals to the UK are being preyed upon by loan sharks who charge very high-interest rates, forcing families into a cycle of poverty. People are constantly facing harassment and threats from these predatory lenders.

“We are very grateful for the support given by the IMLT to create this video and we will continue to work together to stop illegal money lenders from taking advantage of the most vulnerable in our communities.”

A recent study by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has revealed that more than one million people are in debt to loan sharks, with some lenders demanding sexual favours as repayment from borrowers.

Warning signs to indicate that you could be dealing with a loan shark include giving no paperwork upon the agreement of a loan, refusing to give detailed information about a loan, intimidation and threats, taking items such as a bank card or passport until the debt is paid, and taking things from you if you do not pay on time. 

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “Loan sharks are preying on migrant communities, using a variety of methods to extort and intimidate their victims.

“The video shows how brutal and dangerous illegal money lending can be and warns against their exploitative practices. These lenders rely on secrecy and fear to control their victims, and many people don’t realise they’re being manipulated at all because the loan shark will pose as their supposed friend. No one should live in constant fear because they owe money.

“We urge anyone who has been affected by this crime to think of their safety and get in touch with us. The sooner you tell us about illegal lending, the sooner we can help. Our team are here to listen, give advice, and guide you to the right sources of support – whatever your situation.”

It’s easy to fall into the grip of a loan shark as they seem friendly at first, but you’ll end up paying back significantly more with extortionate interest rates. Their friendly behaviour can soon turn into threats, intimidation and even violence.

Loan sharks often don’t give you much paperwork to confirm the arrangements, so you won’t know how much interest you’re being charged or the total amount you’ll have to pay back.

As well as charging exorbitant interest rates, loan sharks often take illegal action to collect the money they have lent you. This can include making threats to take away your passport and valuables or even physically hurting you. If a loan shark threatens you or acts in a violent way, contact the police straight away on 999 and report the lender to the Illegal Money Lending Team.

If you want to check if a money lender is legal you can search the online register to see if that person is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If they are not authorised by the FCA, they are breaking the law.

If you are a migrant, refugee or asylum seeker in the West Midlands and need support or advice, contact Tulia on 0276970090 or email info@tulia.org.uk and a member of the team will contact you.

To report a loan shark, contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222 or use our online reporting form to access support. Live chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Fari’s story can be viewed on the Stop Loan Sharks YouTube Channel.