We are supporting a national campaign aimed at tackling loan sharks and helping people to stay safe online.
The campaign, which is being led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), comes amid concerns more people are falling prey to unscrupulous lenders online.
The COVID-19 outbreak has meant loan sharks have been unable to find and snare their victims at traditional places such as the pub or the school gates.
Loan sharks are increasingly using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, to advertise their illicit loans and target users.
These criminals will lure people with seemingly attractive loan offers but will quickly resort to intimidation, threats and violence to enforce repayment and trap borrowers in a spiral of debt.
The campaign encourages residents and communities to speak up about the activity of illegal money lenders.
Together Housing is training staff at all levels and teams to ensure they can identify loan sharks and signpost victims to support confidentially and safely.
A series of videos educating people on the dangers of loan sharks have been developed for release on Twitter over the coming days and weeks.
The aim is to give residents a greater understanding of how loan sharks operate and the tell-tale signs to look out for.
Janette Pearce, Head of Income at Together Housing Group said: “We’re very pleased to be running our week of action with the Illegal Money Lending Team to campaign against loan sharks who prey on the most vulnerable. We’re getting more and more reports of our residents being targeted and taken advantage of via social media platforms. Victims can quickly get into huge debt that spirals out of control. This causes great hardship and impacts hugely on mental health.
“We strongly encourage residents who need to borrow money to do it responsibly and ethically by talking to a credit union. These offer affordable loans and financial help. We partner with Leeds City Credit Union. Our residents, wherever they live, can access their affordable loans as well as other financial services such as savings accounts. We also offer advice about budgeting and other ways residents can maximise their income instead of resorting to a loan shark.”
Protect yourself from online loan sharks
- Know who you’re dealing with. If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a lender, take some time to do a bit more research.
- Check the lender is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If not, don’t borrow from them – report to the Stop Loan Sharks team.
- Beware of loan adverts with no credit checks. Loan sharks have been known to advertise in community groups and on local selling pages. They may seem friendly and accommodating, but their behaviour can quickly change, and you might be harassed or threatened if you get behind with your repayments. Lenders must carry out credit checks to make sure borrowers can afford to pay back their loans. You should never hand over your bank details to strangers, even if they lure you with attractive offers. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Beware of any requests for your details or money. Loan sharks may ask for copies of your passport or pictures of your house, the street and your house number. Never send money or give card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
If you have been the victim of a loan shark, contact the Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or report online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm weekdays.