Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit urges Scots to choose a loan shark free Christmas 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 festive campaign to provide reassurance and support for those in financial difficulties who may feel that they have no option but to turn to an illegal lender.
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 is also targeting those who are worried that a friend, relative or vulnerable client they work with has borrowed from a loan shark and is 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.
Andy, an office worker in his 40s from Aberdeen, had been struggling with money for a while and when his car broke down in November, he felt that he was out of options. A man he worked with offered to lend him £200 to cover the repair costs and told Andy he could pay him back later.
A couple of weeks later, Andy was still struggling to make ends meet and asked his colleague if he could borrow a bit more. His colleague agreed and suggested they set up weekly payments so that Andy wouldn’t have to pay back the full amount at once.
Andy started to pay his colleague £50 each week. He eventually thought he had paid him back the full amount of the loan, but his colleague told him he still had to pay the ‘interest’. He turned up at Andy’s flat one evening with a couple of other men and threatened him with violence if he didn’t continue to make monthly payments.
By this point, Andy had no idea how much he had paid and how long he would have to continue paying his colleague – he felt that he was at crisis point and couldn’t cope with the anxiety and financial worries any more.
The SIMLU were able to put Andy in touch with a local debt advice agency and are supporting him to move away from the loan shark.
Fiona Richardson, Chief Officer of Trading Standards Scotland said:
“At a time when more and more people are finding themselves in crisis situations, it is crucial that anyone who feels they have no option but to turn to a loan shark knows that they are not alone and that support is available to them.
“Loan sharks will look to target the most vulnerable during the cost of living crisis and often appear friendly and understanding. However, they can soon become intimidating and demand increasing amounts of money.
“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 www.stopillegallending.co.uk or call the free and confidential 24-hour helpline on 0800 074 0878.