TV Review: War on Loan Sharks
This week, the BBC aired a documentary called “The War on Loan Sharks” which followed the day-to-day of the Illegal Money Lending Team (ILMT) and their investigations into loan sharking around Weston-super-Mare. There are 310,000 families that have turned to loan sharks in the UK and this is illegal side of lending is said to be worth around £400 million per year.
The show looked at both sides of the loan, speaking to victims and how they were involved. One man spoke of how his wife became ill and how he had to quit his job to look after her but fell behind on payments. Without any job or security, he was denied by mainstream lenders so turned to a loan shark for a short term loan. The debt spiralled out of the control and the intimidation from the sharks ruined his life. He was able to get out of the situation by reaching out to professionals and illegal money lending teams who found the illegal lender and prosecuted him.
The production paid respect to Carol Highton MBE from Runcorn who tragically lost her son to suicide after being chased by a loan shark. Her continued campaigning against the threat and raising awareness gained her a host of admirers and subsequent MBE before sadly dying in 2015 from cancer.
What is a Loan Shark?
This is a company or individual that loans money to borrowers in an illegal and unregulated environment. The cost of taking out the loan can easily be more than double the amount borrowed and can be as high as 4 million per cent APR – significantly higher than the 49.9% for guarantor loan products and £1,100% for payday products. The borrowers that do not pay on time are regularly subjected to bullying, harassment and intimidation and this can also happen to those that do pay on time.
Loan Sharks could be found through word of mouth, an introduction or someone at your local pub or sports club. By lending to someone without security or affordability checks in an unregulated setting means that astronomic fees can be charged and there is no legal framework when it comes to collecting the money and the collection techniques can regularly contain violence.
Don’t forget, a loan shark can also be posing as a company, most likely online. If they are found on Google or social media, one can be lured into applying. It is therefore information that if you do apply for any online lenders, that you can see that they have trust factors like an FCA authorisation (usually on the footer of the site), a legitimate address, phone number and customer reviews from the likes of Trustpilot. Be sure to check the FCA register and enter the website name to verify its legitimacy.
Why would people go to a loan shark?
If the fees are so high and people can be subject to violent abuse, why would anyone go to a loan shark?
If there are people facing debt and have been unsuccessful borrowing money through alternatives (payday, credit cards, benefits, family and friends), they may fall victim to borrowing from a loan shark. There is also the convenience of being given cash in hand by someone, especially if the customer is desperate for money e.g bills, rent, addiction
According to the BBC programme, they mention that these unregulated lenders will appear friendly during the initial conversation and handing of money but ‘turn nasty’ when payment is due or overdue. Sharks will rarely provide agreements or terms of the loan, taking advantage of the customer’s vulnerability and financial innocence. But this means that the borrower is unaware of the huge amounts that they will owe and the danger of the lender.
What can you do if you have been involved with a loan shark?
Tony Quigley, head of the England IMLT told The Bristol Post:
“This documentary sends a clear message to viewers that loan sharks will not be tolerated in our society and will be brought to justice.
“We would urge anyone who has been affected by a loan shark to call our 24-hour confidential hotline, on 0300 555 2222.
He continued: “Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 368 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 318 years’ worth of custodial sentences.
“They have written off £71.75 million worth of illegal debt and helped nearly 26,000 people.”
Victims of loan sharks can do the following:
3. Read the advice from Citizens Advice Bureau
But what if you need money?
If you are struggling with debt that is making your consider loan sharks as a option, there are alternatives for borrowing money or overcoming your debt.
Credit Union: These are not-for-profit organisations that are based in local communities and available to help those looking for low-cost loans. The fee for borrowing is 1% per month which is a lot cheaper than a payday loan that charges 0.8% per day and an APR of around 26.3%. So if you borrowed £1,000 for 6 months, you would repay £1,063.50, making it the lowest cost loan available in the UK. One of the best things about credit unions is that if you fall behind on repayments or cannot repay, there are no late fees or default charges because it is a charity organisation.
Debt Management: Whether it is through a professional debt management company or charity such as StepChange, they can help you organise all your debts into a well-organised plan to pay off all your debts and still pay for essentials such as food, travel and entertainment. It can be a long-term strategy and take several years, but it is an effective way to become sufficient and debt-free. Your salary will go automatically to the debt management company and they will pay off your debtors and give you the remaining income to pay for your necessities.
MoneyAdviceService: For free and impartial advice, you can visit the moneyadviceservice.org.uk