Stop Loan Sharks Week highlights help available to those trapped by illegal money lenders - Mark Fleet

Although the problems caused by loan sharks are well known, the most recent reports into the number of people turning to them for financial help have revealed that a staggering three million Britons have used their dubious services over the last three plus years, indicating there is still much to be done to get them off our streets once and for all.

Fortunately, the England Illegal Money Lending Team's (IMLT) annual Stop Loan Sharks Week is back to raise awareness of the issue and the risks posed by illegal money lenders.

Taking place between May 13 and 19, Stop Loan Sharks Week works by offering people advice on how to recognise the signs that someone might be involved with a loan shark, what to do about it and where to get help.

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What are loan sharks? Loan sharks lend money to people who are struggling to make ends meet and who may have been turned down for a loan from reputable sources like credit unions or banks.

There are concerns of struggling borrowers potentially being preyed on by loan sharks. PIC: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireThere are concerns of struggling borrowers potentially being preyed on by loan sharks. PIC: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
There are concerns of struggling borrowers potentially being preyed on by loan sharks. PIC: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

They promise to provide them with a quick and easy loan, only to apply sky-high APR rates, trapping their financially vulnerable victim in a cycle of debt and resorting to intimidation and violence until the loan - plus interest - is repaid in full.

The IMLT works with local communities, educational facilities and the police to investigate and prosecute loan sharks, and offer support to those who owe them money.

The IMLT is estimated to have written off more than £87m worth of illegal debt since 2004, highlighting just how serious the issue is.

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To try and put a stop to this illegal activity once and for all, Stop Loan Sharks Week raises awareness of the help that is available to people who have been targeted by illegal money lenders by encouraging conversations among friends, families and communities.

So how do credit unions combat loan sharks? Credit unions pride themselves on looking after their members' financial wellbeing.

While they might not be out on the streets tracking loan sharks down to throw them behind bars, there are plenty of things they can do to stop illegal money lenders from taking advantage of financially vulnerable individuals.

This includes lending money at affordable rates to their members, which helps keep them out of the hands of loan sharks and means they don't have to worry about high interest repayments.

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They also offer access to savings accounts and money and budgeting advice, so their members can avoid coming into contact with loan sharks altogether.

How do you seek help if you're in debt? With the cost of living crisis driving more households into the grasp of illegal money lenders to help pay their bills, Stop Loan Sharks Week couldn't have come at a better time.

If you have borrowed from an illegal money lender or are worried about someone else who may have, you can contact the IMLT team 24/7 on 0300 555 2222 or fill out a secure online form to report a loan shark at

You can also seek help from your local credit union, who can offer support and advice and whose products and services can help you get your finances safely back on track.

Mark Fleet is the CEO of Leeds Credit Union.

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