January is traditionally known as the ‘blue month’ or the ‘money hangover’ as people are often strapped for cash after splurging big amounts on Christmas.
January is also the time of year where loan sharks start to bite and chase victims for the first repayment on a Christmas loan. Due to people being short of money, some borrowers might fail to meet the first settlement and receive threats from the lender. This is when a loan shark’s true colours and motive begin to show.
The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national team that investigate and prosecute loan sharks – are here to help victims who have fallen into deep waters with a loan shark during the festive season.
The team – who run a 24hour hotline all year round – are made up of Investigators and support officers who meet with victims on a daily basis and build up prosecution files to stop loan sharks in their deceiving tracks.
Victims who have been bitten over the festive period or who are currently being put through a miserable time because of a loan shark are being urged to contact the IMLT to report what’s happening.
The team will take information anonymously and in confidence; you don’t have to give your name and an officer will go through your options first before taking the report.
Merseyside’s Deputy Police Commissioner, Cllr Emily Spurrell, said: “Christmas is an expensive time and it can be tempting to access cash quickly from a loan shark to purchase those all-important presents.
“But what starts out as a small loan can quickly escalate into something much more serious. January is a time when borrowers may find themselves trapped by spiralling debt and facing intimidation, threats and even violence.
“Loan sharks are unscrupulous criminals who prey on vulnerable victims, causing untold misery.
“But borrowers do not have to live in fear, there is help and support available. If you do find yourself a victim of a loan shark then do not suffer in silence – speak out by contacting Merseyside Police on 101 or, if it is an emergency, 999 or get in touch with the Illegal Money Lending team 24 hour hotline on 0300 555 2222.”
What is a loan shark?
A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It is a criminal offence to lend money without authorisation and can lead to a 2-year prison sentence and/or £5,000 fine.
How do I know if I’ve borrowed from a loan shark?
Loan sharks typically start off friendly and are often heard of through word of mouth. It could be a friend, colleague, neighbour or someone who is well known in the community for helping others out financially.
If you have had a cash loan and can answer yes to one or more of these questions, you might have borrowed from a loan shark:
- Did they not give you paperwork?
- Did they add huge amounts of interest or APR to your loan?
- Have they threatened you?
- Are you scared of people finding out?
- Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, watch or other valuables from you?
The IMLT will be with you every step of the way from the moment you make the call. You will receive one-to-one support; this might be help with housing, debt issues or referrals for health problems.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “January is a difficult month for some people. It can be even more of a glum time for loan shark victims as lenders start chasing them for the first repayment on their Christmas loan. We want to reassure victims that they have not broken the law and help and support is available. If you or someone you know has been bitten by a loan shark during the festive period, please call us on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk.”
To check if a money lender is licensed, borrowers can also search the Financial Services Register: https://register.fca.org.uk/