Residents are being urged to be on their guard against unscrupulous loan sharks who may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak and prey on people’s financial worries.
Loan sharks charge extortionate interest rates and often intimidate, threaten and trap vulnerable victims in a cycle of fear and violence.
These criminals may seem friendly at first but borrowing from them could have serious consequences for your family.
Some lenders have been known to take a victim’s passport, driving licence, benefits and bank cards as security for the loan, and many begin to make their borrowers feel threatened or intimidated. Some even become violent towards their victims if they fail to pay, leaving them terrified.
How to protect yourself and report loan sharks operating in your community:
1. Do not accept cash loans, even if the lender seems friendly or helpful as they may ask for unrealistic and unaffordable payments in return.
2. Avoid loan sharks at all costs and consider other options if you need to borrow money. Credit unions offer ethical savings and loans to local communities. Find a credit union near you – www.creditu.co.uk
3. To lend money lawfully you must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can search the FCA Financial Services register to check if the lender is legal at register.fca.org.uk. If you have already borrowed money from someone who isn’t FCA authorised, you haven’t broken the law, they have.
If you have been the victim of a loan shark, contact the Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or report online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk.