Warning issued over loan sharks during Covid-19 pandemic

People suffering financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic are being urged to avoid loan sharks who cause profound misery and stress to their victims.

Loan sharks are unregulated, often give cash loans without any paperwork and charge extortionate interest rates.

In most cases, victims are introduced to the lender either through a friend, family member or because they are known in the community. Victims believe the loan shark is offering them a service, but their behaviour can quickly change if repayments are not met.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Our team remains committed to protecting vulnerable people who could be at risk of falling prey to these opportunistic loan sharks, particularly in the current climate.

“Loan sharks exploit the vulnerability of those already in financial difficulties and use predatory practices to collect the debts. These unpleasant individuals spell nothing but misery for those who borrow money from them so it’s vital, as a society, that we all remain vigilant to this activity.”

Some of the tell-tale signs of loan sharking include cash loans without paperwork, use of benefit or bank cards as security and threatening behaviour or violence to get money.

The England Illegal Money Lending (IMLT) is a national team that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks. They also have a LIAISE team that provides emotional and practical support to help victims escape their exploiters.

The Stop Loan Sharks helpline service (0300 555 2222) remains open and fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also use the contact form found on the homepage to request a call back at a time that’s safe for you.

The IMLT encourages not only victims but friends, family members and the wider community to come forward if they suspect someone is suffering at the hands of loan sharks.

The specialist team have secured more than 390 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 480 years’ worth of custodial sentences.

They have also written off a staggering £75 million worth of illegal debt and helped more than 29,000 people escape the clutches of loan sharks.

How to spot a loan shark and report illegal money lending

If you can answer yes to one or more of the questions below 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?  

Anyone wanting to report a loan shark can call the 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or complete an online report form.

You can check if a company is authorised to lend money and report loan sharks anonymously at www.loansmart.org.uk.

What to do if Covid-19 has impacted your personal and household finances

The Government has published some useful advice if you are self-employed, claiming benefits or needing to make a claim for benefits and statutory sick pay – www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses

For more information about statutory sick pay please visit – www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

For more information about making a new claim for universal credit please visit – www.gov.uk/universal-credit   

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice continues to provide free, independent and confidential advice and support for people during these unprecedented and challenging times.

You can find frequently updated advice on a range of issues related to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak at citizensadvice.org.uk/coronavirus.