Don’t let loan sharks mess with your head!

Many of us will struggle with finances at some point in our lives and for some people when times are tough they feel they have no option but to borrow from loan sharks. It is estimated that 310,000 households in the UK are borrowing from lenders who are unauthorised, often charge extortionate rates and may resort to violence, threats and intimidation to enforce their loans.

One in four people may experience some kind of mental health issue in the course of a year and money worries can escalate problems. The stress of being involved with an illegal lender can have awful effects: 21% of borrowers interviewed by IMLT during the first six months of 2014 said that they had poor mental health, with several speaking about thoughts of suicide;

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is the agency that prosecutes loan sharks and supports people affected by this crime. Often the person who introduces the loan shark is seen as a trusted friend or even family member. One such case was that of Mike, who borrowed from a “friend of the family” to buy a used car. Over the years Mike paid a staggering £90,000 to the loan shark, all from an initial loan of £250.

This had a hugely detrimental impact on Mike and his family. The loan shark attacked Mike in front of his children and he lost his home as he couldn’t pay the mortgage. Aged 33, he suffered a stress-related heart attack.

On more than one occasion, Mike attempted suicide. He said

“You wouldn’t wish it on anybody, it affected my relationship with my wife. If I wasn’t at work I was home arguing and it affected the kids. They had nothing.

The turning point was when Mike spotted an article in his local paper about a loan shark who had been prosecuted by the Team. Mike called the confidential hotline. From that point forwards he was supported and the loan shark was prosecuted and imprisoned.

“I wish I’d known there was somewhere to go years ago” Mike said “The Team were fantastic, they offered so much support, and every promise they made they delivered. It was such a relief when I found out the loan shark was arrested and then put in prison.

Illegal lenders will often appear very friendly in the first instance but should never be used under any circumstances. They rarely offer paperwork so borrowers are unsure about the terms of the agreement and how much is owing. The rates of interest can also be extortionate, as high as 131,000% has been identified in the past. Some loan sharks will also resort to taking items from the victim’s home as security, including items such as passports and bank cards.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, then please speak to the Illegal Money Lending Team in the strictest confidence on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and are answered by a trained investigator.

About suffolktradingstandards
Suffolk Trading Standards is working towards creating and fair and safe trading environment. By creating empowered consumers, that are armed with the knowledge to stop 'rogue traders'.

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