England's Illegal Money lending Team have launched a #SleighNoToLoanSharks campaign to protect communities from the effects of illegal money lending in the run up to Christmas.
Loan sharks target vulnerable people seeking credit and trap them into a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates and threats of violence.
They pose a dangerous threat to all communities with their aggressive and exploitative practices and the impact of illegal money lending is severe and far reaching with devastating consequences for the mental health and wellbeing of those affected.
Safety tips to protect yourself and loved ones from loan sharks
If you're struggling to make ends meet and need cash fast, the thought of a loan shark might seem tempting, but remember these lenders are not your friends. Debt can quickly spiral out of control - it's important to think carefully before taking out a loan and consider other options.
Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don't know or trust. This information is valuable so make sure you protect it from criminals who can use it to find and stalk you, harass you or threaten those you love.
If you're thinking about borrowing money, it's important to check that your lender is genuine. Loan sharks operate illegally without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Do your research first and check the firm or person you're dealing with is listed on the Financial Services Register.
When exploitative loan sharks are preying on hardship, it's vital for people to know there is an ethical, local, not-for-profit alternative available. Credit unions are a lifeline for many people, with their services helping members to save regularly, borrow responsibly and keep track of their finances.
Getting trapped in a never-ending spiral of debt after borrowing from a loan shark can have devastating consequences, not only on your finances but also on most other aspects of your life, including your mental health, work and relationships with your family and friends. If you're worried about a friend or family member, or if you need help yourself, Stop Loan Sharks can offer confidential advice and support.
If you are you worried about a friend, colleague or family member who is being taken advantage of by a loan shark visit Stop Loan Sharks or contact their 24 hours per day, 7 days per week helpline, tel: 0300 555 2222 for support. Live chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.