Don’t fall prey to a loan shark this Christmas, urges Buckinghamshire Council
As the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, Buckinghamshire Council is supporting Stop Loan Sharks Week 2020.
The theme of the campaign this year is ‘Shark Free Surfing’, aiming to deter people from falling prey to unscrupulous lenders online, as statistics show one in five victims met their lender on social media in the first half of 2020.
According to the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), loan sharks are increasingly using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, to advertise their illegal loans and target potential victims. So, it is hoped that the campaign will help encourage not just victims but the wider community to report online illegal money lending activity.
How to protect yourself from loan sharks online:
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 using the contact details at the bottom of the page.
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 suspect someone may be a loan shark or they are acting inappropriately, you can report them anonymously to www.stoploansharks.co.uk or by calling the Stop Loan Sharks Helpline on 0300 555 2222.
Alternatively, you can email the team [email protected] or access support via live chat on the website Monday to Friday between 9am-5pm.
If you, or anyone you know, are being threatened, or believe you are in danger at the hands of a loan shark, you should immediately call the police on 999.
Gareth Williams, cabinet member for Communities & Public Health, said: "As Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, I urge residents to remain vigilant when online and to look out for online adverts offering quick cash loans or bank transfers without checks or paperwork. Don’t fall prey to a loan shark. Borrowing money from an illegal money lender is never the answer and the consequences can be dreadful.
"I would strongly recommend that anyone in need of financial assistance talks to Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money or to their local credit union, a safe source of affordable credit, rather than turning to illegal money lenders.
“Follow the tips from the Stop Loan Sharks team and make sure you share the advice with any friends, family members and neighbours you feel might be at risk.”