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Don’t get bitten by a loan shark

With price increases on everything from fuel to food making it increasingly tough for households, illegal money lenders (more commonly known as loan sharks) are stepping in, offering loans with extremely high interest rates.

Loan sharks are illegal lenders who often target vulnerable people. They might seem friendly at first but borrowing from them is never a good idea – even if you feel you have no other option. They make false promises of a quick and easy loan, then demand high levels of repayment once their victims are trapped in a cycle of debt.

What’s a loan shark?

A loan shark is someone who lends money illegally without permission from the Financial Conduct Authority. Lending money without a licence is illegal. However, it’s important to know that if you borrow from an illegal money lender, you have not broken the law, they have.

Loan sharks are often a last resort for people who have no option for obtaining credit. With just one unexpected bill, people can quickly find themselves turning to an illegal lender to find the money.

The real danger of loan sharks is the psychological toll it takes on victims and their families, leaving them feeling trapped and helpless.

How can you spot a loan shark?

A loan shark might be a friend or acquaintance, or they might be someone known for lending money. You can spot a loan shark by noticing that they:


  • Offer little or no paperwork (such as a credit agreement or record of payment)
  • Refuse to give information (such as the interest rate or how much you owe)
  • Take items as security (like passports, bank cards or driving licenses)
  • Increase the debt or add additional charges at any time
  • Refuse to allow you to settle your debt
  • Become nasty - resorting to intimidation, threats, or violence.

Remember, if someone is lending you money, they must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. The Financial Services Register lists firms and individuals that have authorisation to offer loans and credit. So, make sure you check before borrowing money.

How to get help

If you have borrowed money from a loan shark or you’re worried about a loved one, you can contact England Illegal Money Lending Team for specialist advice and support. The Stop Loan Sharks Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0300 555 2222.