Warwickshire County Council's Trading Standards Service is supporting the 'Sleigh No To Loan Sharks' campaign this festive season.
The campaign aims to protect communities from the devastating effects of illegal money lending.
Nearly one in ten people turned to loan sharks to cover the costs of Christmas last year.
Experts have warned that unscrupulous lenders could try to cash in on the festive period as households struggle to cope with rising food, fuel and energy bills.
Loan sharks are targeting vulnerable people seeking credit and trapping them into a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates and threats of violence.
Follow these safety tips to protect yourself and loved ones from loan sharks:
- If you’re struggling to make ends meet and need cash fast, the thought of a loan shark might seem tempting, but remember these lenders are not your friends. Debt can quickly spiral out of control – it’s important to think carefully before taking out a loan and consider other options.
- Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. This information is valuable so make sure you protect it from criminals who can use it to find and stalk you, harass you or threaten those you love.
- If you’re thinking about borrowing money, it’s important to check that your lender is genuine. Loan sharks operate illegally without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Do your research first and check the firm or person you’re dealing with is listed on the Financial Services Register at https://register.fca.org.uk/s/
- When exploitative loan sharks are preying on hardship, it’s vital for people to know there is an ethical, local, not-for-profit alternative available. Credit unions are a lifeline for many people, with their services helping members to save regularly, borrow responsibly and keep track of their finances. There are other community lenders who are mostly not for profit, and who reinvest any surpluses into serving vulnerable customers, which can be found on the Finding Finance website at www.findingfinance.org.uk/
- Getting trapped in a never-ending spiral of debt after borrowing from a loan shark can have devastating consequences, not only on your finances but also on most other aspects of your life, including your mental health, work and relationships with your family and friends. If you’re worried about a friend or family member, or if you need help yourself, Stop Loan Sharks can offer confidential advice and support.
Are you worried about a friend or family member who is being taken advantage of by a loan shark? Contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline or fill in their secure online form to receive confidential support. Live Chat is available on their website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk/contact-us/
More information about the 'Sleigh No To Loan Sharks' campaign is available at www.stoploansharks.co.uk/fears-over-debt-as-more-people-could-turn-to-loan-sharks-to-cover-christmas