Appeal to stop loan sharks profiting from COVID-19

An appeal has been launched to raise awareness of loan sharks to stop them taking advantage of people’s hardships during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have relaunched their Stop Loan Sharks appeal as more people may see increased financial pressure during the pandemic.

The Stop Loan Sharks helpline service will remain open for people to report any illegal money lending. A spokesperson said “We encourage 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.”

Anyone who is lending money should have the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), must stick to strict guidance and deal with customers fairly, using proper paperwork and legal collection methods.

Sharon Dale, Income Officer at Honeycomb Group, said: “It’s really important that we spread the word about Loan Sharks and the danger they pose to our community.

“They often target the most vulnerable in society and may seem friendly at first when you have no other options for borrowing money, but it is never a good idea.

“Loan sharks charge huge interest rates, the BBC reported that some have attempted to charge up to 718,000%, and can become very intimidating if you get behind on payments. Victims often end up in a spiral of debt that they cannot pay back.

“If someone offers to lend you money with little or no paperwork, refuse to be clear on the interest rate or how much you owe or take items as security, such as your passport or driving license, you should report them to the Stop Loan Shark helpline.”

You can check if a company is authorised to lend money with Loan Smart. The Stop Loan Shark helpline is open 24/7 on 0300 555 2222.

For any money advice, visit the Money Advice Service website.