Christmas campaign launched to crackdown on Loan Sharks

A photograph of a bank card
#SLSWeek2017

Loan sharks are being targeted as part of a nation-wide social media Christmas campaign.

With the festive season fast approaching, the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are urging families to not borrow from loan sharks amid fears a small loan could lead to massive repayments in the New Year.

The IMLT – a national team that investigate and prosecute loan sharks – work closely with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), local Trading Standards and the Police to crackdown on illegal money lending.

The IMLT are launching a social media campaign to give users advice on how to avoid falling victim to loan sharks and report illegal money lending in their area.

The campaign will run from Monday 4 to Friday 8 December and will consist of tweets, advice articles and media links being shared from the Stop Loan Sharks Facebook page and Twitter account. #SLSWeek2017

To spread awareness of the support available to loan shark victims, Facebook users are being encouraged to add the Stop Loan Sharks frame to their profile picture. The frame features the IMLT 24-hour hotline number; victims and worried family members can call this number to seek advice and support concerning loan sharks.

Cllr Joyce McCarty, Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council said:

“Falling into debt can be a very worrying and stressful time for people, and we just want to make Newcastle residents aware of schemes and organisations that can help and provide useful information.

“We understand that parents and families just want the best for their children and relatives around Christmas.  The prospect of borrowing from a Loan Shark might seem a good idea at the time.  But it could lead to problems in the New Year when the debt has to be repaid.

“If a loan package seems too good then it probably is – why not look for alternatives such as the Credit Union?”

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:

“Christmas can be a difficult time for some families; the cost and added pressures may tempt some people into borrowing from a loan shark. This timely campaign will hopefully make people think twice before using an illegal money lender. We are encouraging those in the grip of a loan shark to come forward and speak to us; our confidential Stop Loan Sharks hotline will be active over Christmas and New Year.

“Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable communities and fleece their victims out of hard earned cash, often through intimidation and violence. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, we urge you to seek help by contacting us on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk.”

The IMLT’s word of warning is: it’s not about what’s under the tree this Christmas but who’s around it – don’t let a loan shark be one of those people.

With an estimated 310,000 households in the UK borrowing from loan sharks every year, the team are warning people to avoid unauthorised lenders at all costs amid fears that illegal loans could result in hard up families repaying the lender into the New Year and beyond.

How to spot a loan shark this Christmas

A loan shark might:

* Offer little or no paperwork on a loan, such as a credit agreement or record of payments
* Refuse to give borrowers information, such as the interest rate or how much you owe

* Take items as security, such as passports, bank cards and driving licenses
* Increase the debt or add additional charges at any time

* Refuse to allow you to settle your debt
* Get nasty – they might use intimidation, threats or violence to enforce repayment

If people are worried about the issue of Loan Sharks in the Newcastle region then don’t hesitate to get help from Citizens Advice Newcastle.

Shona Alexander, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Newcastle, said:

"We are very concerned about illegal money lending in the City. Loan Sharks are always active around Christmas time so we urge people to be extra careful in planning their money to avoid getting into debt and taking out a loan.  If you are a victim of a loan shark or know somebody who might be, then don’t hesitate to contact us."

Citizens Advice Newcastle provides free confidential and independent advice for local people. Their office is in the heart of the City, on the 4th Floor of Newcastle's City Library:

Opening times:

  • 10am to 3pm / Monday – Wednesday
  • 10am to 6pm / Thursday
  • 10am to 3pm / Friday

No appointment needed -  just call in to see an advisor. Telephone advice is available between 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday by calling our advice-line on 0344 245 1288.

People can also find out further information by visiting www.citizensadvice-newcastle.org.uk

The national campaign “Stop Loan Sharks Project” has its own Twitter page @LoanSharkNews and Face Book www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

People can also follow Newcastle City Council on social media @newcastlecitycouncil (Facebook) and @NewcastleCC (Twitter) @lovenewcastle (Instagram).