Ask The Question

May 10, 2023

Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit urges Scots to Ask the Question as the cost of living crisis leads to a rise in illegal money lending

As more Scots struggle with rising prices and energy bills, the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit (SIMLU) has launched a new campaign to encourage people to ask questions of friends, family members or colleagues if they are worried they may have borrowed money from a loan shark.

Questions may include:

  • “Is someone you have borrowed money from threatening you?”
  • “Are you worried about the amount you’ll have to repay for a loan you applied for via social media?”
  • “Are you struggling to find a way to repay money you have borrowed?”

Organisations that provide advice and support to individuals in financial difficulties are also being urged to ask the right questions of clients to find out whether they have borrowed from an illegal lender and to signpost them to the SIMLU for further advice and support.

Millions of people across the UK are turning to loan sharks to help pay bills, despite the fact that loans from illegal lenders end up costing on average three times as much as a legal loan.

Illegal lenders are increasingly operating online, offering quick and easy loans via social media and WhatsApp. These loans can seem attractive to those in crisis situations; however the lenders are not usually authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority and often charge huge interest rates. They don’t always provide paperwork or clear terms of the loan, which allows them to exploit people and trap them in a seemingly never-ending spiral of debt.

The campaign also aims to provide reassurance and support for those who feel that they have no option but to turn to a loan shark, and for those who may have already borrowed from a loan shark and are struggling with repayments. Anyone can reach out to SIMLU confidentially to ask for support and advice on behalf of someone they are concerned about.

SIMLU operate a free and confidential 24-hour helpline to offer immediate support with urgent issues as well as help to access local services such as credit unions, debt advice and support groups.

Councillor Maureen Chalmers, Chair of Trading Standards Scotland said:

Loan sharks will look to target those who are most affected by the rising cost of living. Those who feel that they have no option but to turn to a loan shark may feel increasingly isolated and alone, therefore it is crucial that we encourage people to ask difficult questions to find out whether their friend, family member, colleague or client may have borrowed from an illegal lender.

“We want to provide a safe and anonymous environment for people to access support and advice and to promote the message that, if someone has used an illegal money lender, they know that they have done nothing wrong and will not be in any trouble.

“In a period of great financial uncertainty, it is important that we take all the steps we can to stop people from borrowing from loan sharks and getting trapped in a cycle of debt and intimidation.”

To find out more about the work of the SIMLU and to find organisations who can provide support and advice to those in financial difficulties, visit or call the free and confidential 24-hour helpline on 0800 074 0878.