Families facing rising costs of living are being targeted by loan sharks, who pose as friends and even use social media influencers to trap victims. new multiplier.
An estimated one million people are in debt to illegal moneylenders, a number that has tripled in the past decade.
Investigators are concerned that an increase in Cost of living will motivate people who are not normally looking for an implicit loan to do so.
Tony Quigley, head of the UK Lenders Group, said: “One of the things we’re clearly afraid of is that given the current situation around energy prices and inflation, many people will be tempted coax to use this type of loan.”
Illegal lenders are increasingly active on social media to entice and then exploit victims, sending threatening messages, shaming and manipulating them in group chats.
A convicted loan shark used an influencer to lure victims.
Loan sharks are also trapping victims by posing as friends who just want to help them get a cash loan before arbitrarily raising interest rates and extorting money.
£50 loan has grown to thousands
One woman, a mother of three, was lent £50 by a woman she met at the school gate.
The debt quickly skyrocketed and she ended up paying thousands of dollars in cash with no records kept.
“I was stressed about repayments,” she said. “I knew I had to pay her back because I saw what she did to other people if they didn’t pay her back. She wanted to know exactly how much money was transferred to my bank. is his job.
“I’ve reached the point of wanting to end everything. I’ve been wanting to commit suicide and don’t know who to turn to. There are threats to my life and home. I’ve closed the windows and I’ll be getting texts from people who bullied me because she sent them to my house, she even used local youth in the area as a terrorist campaign.”
‘It’s likely that the illegal lender is someone you know’
The women’s experiences are consistent with what was found in a study by the Center for Social Justice, a consulting organization.
Matthew Greenwood, head of debt, said: “I think the most surprising thing we found was that more than half of people who borrowed money from an illegal lender said they considered this person a friend. their loan when they first borrowed.
“There’s a sort of perception that every illegal lender is a hooded person in a dark alley, and while those certainly exist, it’s more likely that the illegal lender is the that you know, rather than the person you first met. time.”
The study found most victims had an income of less than £20,000, two-thirds owed money to legitimate creditors, three-quarters were on pension and two-thirds had a long-term health condition.
‘Give me back, don’t feed me’
Experts say crime is so widespread and hidden that victims are too scared or embarrassed to report their experiences. Large sums of money and exorbitant interest rates take a psychological toll, leaving victims feeling trapped and helpless.
Mr Quigley said: “We have seen some terrible things that people have to endure. “We’ve had cases in the past where loan sharks told individuals, ‘Pay me, don’t feed your kids.’
“We’ve also seen illegal lenders say they’ll send men in and they can repay through sex, so that’s disgusting.”
The UK Illegal Money Lending Group, founded in 2004 and running the Stop Loan Sharks helpline, is an expert group of law enforcement officials fighting illegal lending and related crime.
It has prosecuted more than 400 cases and written off an illegal debt of £90 million.