Warning not to  fall prey to loan sharks online landscape

New campaign launched to tackle online loan sharks

  • Statistics show one in five victims met their lender on social media in the first half of 2020.
  • Loan sharks are increasingly using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, to advertise their illegal loans and target potential victims.

READING COUNCIL is backing a new national campaign aimed at tackling illegal money lending on the internet and warning of the dangers of online loan sharks.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have launched the campaign nationally this week (Monday 30 November), amid concerns more people are 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.

Loan sharks are increasingly using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, to advertise their illegal loans and target potential victims.

These criminals will lure people in 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, titled #SharkFreeSurfing, will run across social media from 30th November to 6th December.

It is hoped that the campaign will help encourage not just victims but the wider community to report online illegal money lending activity.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We are aware that loan sharks are becoming more active on social media, particularly in community groups and on local selling pages, which we will not tolerate.

“Loan sharks are using online platforms to advertise their predatory lending activities and target potential victims. People throughout our communities are struggling financially due to the pandemic and the increased pressures to not only meet monthly bills, but also the added expense of Christmas, may make them more at risk of being targeted by illegal money lenders.

“I urge people to remain vigilant when online – if you spot a suspicious loan advert on social media, report it to us. If you need to borrow money, always check the lender is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority and contact your local credit union about ethical financial products and services.”

Ellie Emberson, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Corporate and Consumer Services, said: “Please always be vigilant, especially this Christmas. We know this year has been particularly tough because of the pandemic and many people may be facing a difficult Christmas financially.

“These unscrupulous sharks prey on the most vulnerable in society. No matter how much you are struggling financially, loan sharks are never the answer.

“I urge people in desperate situations to speak to their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice, rather than getting themselves into deep water with a rogue lender. You should also check you are getting all the financial support you are entitled to. Find out more on the Council’s website www.reading.gov.uk/housing/benefits-and-assistance/debt-advice  

“The message to these sharks is –  the net is closing in on you and we will not tolerate this callous and manipulative crime in our town.

“Help us fight back against loan sharks! Remember, you can report these criminals in the strictest confidence and action will be taken.”

 How to report

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 reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or access support via live chat on the website Monday to Friday between 9am5pm.

 The Stop Loan Sharks App is free to download on both iOS and Android devices from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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. Check at https://register.fca.org.uk/s/
  • 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 people need to borrow, they should try to only borrow the amount needed and make sure it is from a reputable lender. Credit unions are a safer and legal alternative and can be found at abcul.org
  • Get further advice from the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau https://rcab.org.uk/



Notes to editors

Notes to Editors:

About the Illegal Money Lending Team The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England, Scotland and Wales work alongside the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to investigate those operating within the consumer credit market without the appropriate authorisation. The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.