What is a Loan Shark?

Illegal moneylenders, often known as loan sharks, are those who lend money to people without the valid credit authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Loan sharks usually advertise by word of mouth and appear friendly and accommodating at the start. However, they prey on the most vulnerable people in society and cause immense misery.

How Can I Spot a Loan Shark?

If you are worried that someone you have borrowed money from or are planning to borrow money from is a loan shark, consider the following questions. If you can answer yes to one or more of them then it is possible you are borrowing from an illegal money lender:

  • Did they offer you a cash loan?
  • Did they not give you any paperwork?
  • Have they added huge amounts of interest or APR to your loan?
  • Did they change the terms of the loan without warning?
  • Have they threatened you?
  • Have they taken your bank/post office card, passport, watch or any other valuables from you?

If you have answered yes to any of these question, contact us 24 hours a day in complete confidence:


  • Phone our confidential helpline 24/7: 0800 074 0878
  • Text ‘loan shark’ and the details to 07741 701 325
  • Email stopillegallending@cosla.gov.uk
  • Click here to contact us online.

Case Study

In 2018, research was carried out to explore the experiences of individuals who had used illegal money lenders in Scotland.

The research highlighted some of the financial and psychological effects of using illegal money lenders:

“I borrowed the money because I had no food for my daughter, no electricity and no pet food. I’d have managed myself, but I couldn’t face having no food for my daughter. She’s 17 so she still relies on me”

“I know there is a moneylender round every corner, I’m not sure how, I just know.”

“They said that if I didn’t pay, the cost of the loan would go up.”

“The moneylender knew what day I get paid. He’d be there at the bank to collect from me.”

“I did think about not paying, but my brother was getting threatened too. I knew they would do something. These aren’t hollow threats, they are real. The people I am dealing with are serious.”

“It was the worst thing I ever did.”

Read the full report here.

Watch our video below to see a dramatisation of two real-life stories of victims of illegal money lenders in Scotland.