England

Christmas warning on borrowing from loan sharks

As people around England visit shops in the annual festive rush a project team is hoping those short of money will not turn to loan sharks to fund presents.

The Stop Sharks Project has released a video of victims' stories to stop more people turning to illegal lenders.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team has highlighted the case of Anne (not her real name) who took out a loan for £150 to buy Christmas presents.

She paid back about £5,000 over five years during a campaign of harassment.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team caught the loan shark, and discovered Anne was one of about 900 "customers" who were being harassed for payment.

'Nerves were shot'

A spokesman from the team said he was given a "lengthy" custodial sentence and stripped of £270,000 he had made illegally.

Anne said: "It was such a weight off my shoulders. It had got to the point where my nerves were shot and I was too frightened to answer the door.

"If he hadn't been arrested I'd probably still be paying him now."

According to the Illegal Money Lending Team 20% of victims in past cases stated that they had borrowed originally to pay for festivities.

The team said in the majority of cases victims are introduced to the lender either through a friend, family member or because they are known in the community.

Motivated by greed

As the debts cannot legally be enforced, the lenders will often resort to threats, violence and other extreme methods to enforce repayment.

A Department for Business spokesman said: "In the run up to Christmas many people can feel under pressure to borrow money to buy extravagant presents.

"By turning to the wrong people for loans, unfortunately what should be a happy time can quickly turn into a dreadful one."

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: "No matter how much you are struggling financially, loan sharks are not the answer.

"They are motivated only by their own greed and are not offering you a service.

"They could easily ruin your Christmas and you could be subjected to years of harassment, paying back your loan several times over."

The team recommends credit unions as a safe and legal alternative.

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