Recently we were delighted to be welcoming so many people to St Martins Church in Walsall for our Stop Loan Sharks training by the wonderful Illegal Money Lending Team and our local Credit Union - Walsave, with our partner the Just Finance Foundation and Just Finance Black Country.

It is estimated that a staggering 310,000 UK households use Loan Sharks!

We learned that there are many types of Loan Sharks and they don’t always meet our preconceptions.

A loan shark is someone who lends money (cash) in the course of trade or business without permission required by the Financial Services and Markets Act. There is no credit agreements and no receipts or payment books. If someone is lending you money they must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. Search their database to see if the lender is legal (https://register.fca.org.uk/) or the Stop Loan Sharks team on 0300 555 2222.

Here are some useful questions to ask if you’re not sure (via www.stoploansharks.co.uk/)

If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions you might be borrowing from a loan shark:

* Did they offer you a cash loan?
* Did they not give you paperwork?
* Did they add huge amounts of interest or APR to your loan?
* Have they threatened you?
* Are you scared of people finding out?
* Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, watch or other valuables from you?

One man who was successfully prosecuted for being a Loan Shark, used threats of violence to anyone who wouldn’t the pay. He threatened to ‘break clients legs’ or throw acid in their faces.

But we were also told about a Foster Carer in Manchester was convicted of loaning £300,000 in to other Foster carers and a Hospital consultant made £287,000 profit for illegal lending to fellow hospital workers.

What help is available?

We learned that the Stop Loan Sharks Team will help anyone. They understand that reporting a loan shark is scary and will help keep people safe.

You can complete a form at www.stoploansharks.co.uk if you think you are paying money to a loan shark or if you know someone who is or call 0300 555 2222. The team are there to speak to you any time of day or night.

Other Useful Links:

www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/borrowing-money/types-of-borrowing/loans/loan-sharks/