Newsroom

6 December 2023

Residents urged to avoid loan sharks this Christmas

Blackpool Council is urging residents not to turn to loan sharks to help cover the cost of Christmas.

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The festive season is full of social events with presents and celebratory food to buy. But for many it also brings immense stress, worry and financial pressure.

Loan sharks recognise this and may try to take advantage of the most vulnerable by pretending that they are helping out in a time of need.

Illegal lenders or loan sharks, as they are more commonly known, are people who lend money without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority.

The council is supporting a social media campaign by money watchdogs, England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), to alert people to the dangers of using loan sharks and help prevent them from falling into their traps in the run-up to Christmas.

Encouraging people to shop smart, not shark, the IMLT is warning people that however tempting an offer of a cash loan might be and however friendly someone might seem, there could be a loan shark lurking beneath the surface.

Illegal money lenders are masters of deception and they are not always easy to spot. They could be a neighbour who always stops to chat, a parent who you know from the school gate, a popular work colleague or even a long-standing family friend.

In the first half of 2023, 56% of the people supported by the IMLT said they thought they were borrowing from a friend. They borrowed anything between £30 and £30,000.

Victims often aren’t aware that they have borrowed from a loan shark until it’s too late. Things can quickly turn nasty as they demand extortionate repayments and issue threats of violence when you can’t pay.

The impact of illegal money lending is severe and far-reaching, with devastating consequences for the mental health and wellbeing of those affected.

There are warning signs to look out for which may all indicate that someone is a loan shark.

They include:

  • Being given no paperwork or details about the loan
  • The lender demanding repayments that add up to much more than you initially borrowed
  • Being intimidated or threatened by the lender if you struggle to pay
  • The lender demanding you hand over items like bank cards or a passport until you can pay

There are alternatives options to borrowing from a loan shark including loans from a bank or setting up a safe savings account through a credit union.

Clevr Money is a local not-for-profit credit union which offers affordable credit. For more information or to join the credit union, visit www.clevr.money

Citizens Advice Blackpool has a range of services to help those in debt. To find out more, visit www.blackpoolcab.org.uk or call the debt line on 01253 308401.

The council can also help to provide advice on debt advice. For advice on where to start, email financial.inclusion@blackpool.gov.uk or call freephone on 0808 196 3080.

Cllr Paula Burdess, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Street Scene and Neighbourhoods, said: 

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“With many families feeling the financial pressures of the ongoing cost of living crisis, we’re urging residents to avoid inviting a loan shark into their lives to cover the cost of Christmas. “They may seem friendly at first but borrowing from them can have serious consequences. Even borrowing a small amount could end up becoming much, much larger with interest payments adding up week after week after week. “It is important to protect yourself from being targeted by loan sharks. If you’re thinking about borrowing money, then please check that your lender is genuine. Do your research first and check the firm or person you’re dealing with is listed on the Financial Services Register. “If you’re struggling to make ends meet, there are far safer ways of accessing affordable credit, like credit unions. Clevr Money may be able to help you shop smart this Christmas. “There is also plenty of information about support available to help with living costs on our website. Our Blackpool Together campaign and dedicated webpages at www.blackpool.gov.uk/Together has advice and support on things like paying bills, food and essentials, money saving tips and how to help others.”
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Anyone who thinks they may be involved with a loan shark should call the confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk for help and support.

For more advice on how to avoid loan sharks, visit www.blackpool.gov.uk/stoploansharks