Published: 21/03/13

We’re all feeling the pinch at the moment, with our money not spreading as far as it used to – the rising cost of living, soaring energy bills and higher food and petrol prices are all taking a toll. When we need extra cash, it is tempting to borrow from someone you’ve been told can help tide you over till more money comes in/pay day. These people are illegal money lenders or loan sharks and they lend money to people without holding a credit licence (issued by the Office of Fair Trading).

Loan sharks prey on vulnerable people and cause immense misery, harassing and bullying people when they have trouble paying back what they have borrowed and fall behind with repayments. They don’t always give receipts for payments made and often threaten violence and resort to blackmail if repayments are missed. They sometimes take benefit payment card, savings books, cash cards and valuables as security, which could ultimately leave their victims destitute as they have such limited access to funds to pay for every day necessities.

Illegal money lenders are called loan sharks for a reason and if you are aware of them operating where you live there is an easy way to report them in confidence to avoid people you know being trapped in their jaws. COSLA has launched an advertising campaign highlighting the phone and text numbers, as well as the website where people can contact the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit. The campaign will be played out on radio stations across Scotland and is reinforced by panels inside buses and posters in pubs and bus shelters.

If you have any information, no matter how small, on loan shark activities the Unit can use it to help investigate offenders with a view to seeing them prosecuted and, more importantly, stop them operating in your community. If you or someone you care about can answer yes to any of the below then you may have been bitten by a loan shark:

  • Have you been offered a cash loan through a ‘friend’ or acquaintance?
  • Have you been threatened for not being able to pay the loan back?
  • Has your bank card been taken from you as a security on a loan
  • Does the amount you owe keep growing regardless of how many payments you make?

Anyone who is a victim of a loan shark, or knows a friend or family member who is affected by their activities can call the Unit to pass on any information, however small or insignificant it may seem on 0800 074 0878 or text: 60003 or visit All information provided will be kept completely confidential. Impartial advice for anyone worried about debt or their finances in general is available from Citizens Advice Scotland on 0808 800 9060 /

Remember, if you have borrowed from an illegal money lender, you haven’t done anything wrong. Whilst you may feel apprehensive about reporting a loan shark, the Unit are there to help you and will support you through the reporting process. Loan sharks can ruin lives and with your help, we can work together to protect communities from falling victim to the devastation they can often leave behind them.

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