Loan sharks are criminals who offer an extremely dangerous way of getting fast cash or an easy loan.
However, many loan sharks may present themselves as friends or guardian angels to begin with, and a lot of people aren’t aware of the dangers of loan sharks. L has always been aware of and experienced loan sharks from childhood, but it wasn’t until they found credit unions that L realised that money could’ve been much simpler and much less stressful.

Growing up, everybody on L’s estate knew the “loan man” and his family. A largely unpleasant bunch to deal with, but for fast cash, the “loan man” was an accessible option for those who needed a helping hand with their money, an easy solution to the cost of daily life, or felt they had nowhere else to turn. He was quite popular with the “school mums”, who inevitably had to find a quick solution to the unexpected expenses of family life.

This loan shark had become almost a part of daily life for many on L’s estate. L’s mum used the “loan man” alongside other legal forms of credit, often renewing other loans to pay the others off. It was the “loan man” that was top priority though, even over household bills, as she was petrified of not being able to pay him back, which began to affect her daily life. In fact, he wouldn’t give anyone the chance to not pay him back – he would wait outside the local post office, stopping people on the way out from collecting their benefits, so he could take his cut of the money first.

As anyone would, L always thought of loans very negatively because of these encounters with the “loan man” throughout their childhood, and began to feel as though nobody was really there to help, not without a catch.

Fast forward to now, and L is going through a difficult time in life, suffering from poor mental health as a result. L found South Manchester Credit Union through their local church 5 years ago, and was able to start saving with us straight away.

L avoids using any form of finance which isn’t sustainable, manageable, and fair, staying away from schemes such as ‘buy now, pay later’. L was one of 6 growing up, and doesn’t want their children to be exposed to the underhanded ways of lending that L experienced their mother go through.

Today, L is still saving with us here, taking out loans only when she needs to, recently borrowing from us to get a new car, which she pays for through her child benefit, so any money L receives is hers to keep.

“To anyone who is thinking of going to a loan shark or is already involved with one, there is always an easier way other than loan sharks. You don’t need the hassle of loan sharks and the credit union is a safe, friendly solution.” – L

L could have been stuck in the same loop their mother was stuck in, borrowing illegally because they don’t have access to more affordable, safer, legal lines of credit. Instead, L is now a valued member of the credit union community, and is able to borrow with us safely and sustainably, whilst also saving for those rainy days.

Here is a message from the Illegal Money Lending Team

If you’re in the unfortunate position of being in hock to a loan shark, please know that you’re not alone and there is help out there.

A loan shark is someone who lends money without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
They often appear friendly and helpful at first, but can turn to violent and aggressive behaviour to force victims into repaying the loan with huge interest and extortionate penalties.

It’s not always easy to spot a loan shark as they come in many different guises and will at first appear friendly, just part of the community. They could be a regular from the local pub, a parent in the school playground or a friend of a friend.

Loan sharks prey on people at their most vulnerable. Borrowing from a loan shark can seem like an easy option but often it will lead to a vicious cycle of threats, intimidation, and spiralling debts.

You will usually find these predators lurking in communities, but they also operate on social media, using dating sites and online groups to find, threaten and control people in debt.

Here are some of the warning signs to watch out for that a lender is acting illegally:

• Giving you no paperwork or agreement on a loan
• Refusing to give you information about the loan
• Keeping items such as your passport and bank card until the debt is paid
• Taking things from you if you don’t pay on time
• Adding more interest or charges so the debt never goes down
• Using intimidation or violence if you don’t pay
• Starting off by being your friend but quickly turning nasty

If you believe you or someone you care about, may be involved with a loan shark or suspect that one is operating in your area, you can seek specialist support from the Illegal Money Lending Team by calling 0300 555 2222.

Article by Ryan Quinn. The story was originally posted on South Manchester Credit Union’s website.