Illegal Money Lending (loan sharks)

What is a loan shark?

A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Loan sharks charge extortionate interest rates and often intimidate, threaten and trap vulnerable victims in a cycle of fear and violence. These criminals may seem friendly at first but borrowing from them can have serious consequences.

Some lenders have been known to take a victim’s passport, driving licence, benefits and bank cards as security for the loan, and many begin to make their borrowers feel threatened or intimidated. Some even become violent towards their victims if they fail to pay, leaving them terrified.

How do I know if I’ve borrowed from a loan shark?

A loan shark might:

  • Offer little or no paperwork on a loan, such as a credit agreement or record of payments
  • Refuse to give borrowers information, such as the interest rate or how much you owe
  • Take items as security, such as passports, bank cards and driving licences
  • Increase the debt or add additional charges at any time
  • Refuse to allow you to settle your debt
  • Get nasty – they might use intimidation, threats or violence to enforce repayment

Matthews Story

After borrowing £20, Matthew began to borrow £100 a time, and with 50 per cent interest, was paying £150 back a week later. The loans increased from £200 to £300 every couple of weeks for around two-and-a-half years. He was trapped, and the loan sharks threatened his children.

Matthew was unable to see a way out of the situation, so he lined up a row of pills and was prepared to take his own life.

But at the last minute, he plucked up the courage to call the Illegal Money Lending Team and his brave actions led to the arrest of these violent criminals.

He said: “If I hadn’t contacted the team, I wouldn’t be here.”

Borrowing from a loan shark can seem like an easy option, but often it will lead to a spiral of debt and extreme misery.

Watch Matthew’s Story at

Might I get in trouble for borrowing from a loan shark?

You are not in trouble if you have borrowed cash or have been paying back a loan from an illegal money lender, the loan shark is. They are the people committing a crime, not you.

How do I report a loan shark?

Contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team

If you or someone you know have fallen victim to a loan shark, you can contact the Illegal Money Lending Team 24/7 on 0300 555 2222.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), also known as Stop Loan Sharks, is a national team that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks. They provide a range of practical and emotional support to victims and communities affected by illegal money lending.

All reports are treated in the strictest confidence and you can remain anonymous.

You can also make a report online and use Live Chat to access advice and support at Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

After you have reported a loan shark a member of the team will contact you at a time to suit you. They will confidentially talk to you about the loan shark.

If you’re thinking about using a loan shark because you can’t borrow money anywhere else, there are a number of organisations which offer free debt advice such as Citizens Advice, StepChange and The Money Advice Service.

Credit unions are recommended as a safe, alternative lending and saving facility. To find your local credit union visit

Download the Stop Loan Sharks App for free on both iOS and Android devices to access advice, information and support about loan sharks and ethical alternatives.

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