Community Protection’s Trading Standards team is warning consumers not to rely on loan sharks to make ends meet this festive season.

Illegal Money Lenders, or Loan Sharks as they are more commonly known, are particularly rife at this time of year, preying on those who are struggling to pay for Christmas. They often start out friendly and helpful, offering quick and easy money before Christmas, but things turn sour when it comes to collecting repayments in January.

Loan Sharks charge huge rates of interest, which means that borrowers end up paying far more for the loan than if they had used a legal lender. Borrowing from illegal money lenders also comes at a greater cost as they use fear and intimidation including threats of violence to force borrowers to make repayments.

In one case a single mother in Nottingham borrowed money from a loan shark to buy Christmas presents for her children to find she had to pay twice the amount of money back. This is common with Loan Sharks and is known as ‘double bubble.’ The situation got worse still when she thought she had finished making her repayments. The lady had been keeping her own record of how much she had borrowed and paid, but as with most Loan Sharks, she had not been given any paperwork to show how many payments she needed to make. The Loan Shark said she had not finished paying and scared her in to continuing to make payments, not knowing when, or if it would ever end. She lived in constant fear, worrying about what would happen if she could not come up with enough money for the Loan Shark and had to face them frequently as they lived nearby and had children at the same school as hers.

Jane Bailey, Trading Standards Manager said: “Don’t be at the mercy of Loan Shark criminals to get money this Christmas, it will cost much more than you borrowed.

“For those who want to take out a loan, there is a safe and legal alternative available at Nottingham Credit Union. They provide affordable banking and lending services to a wide range of people with varying credit history.”

Councillor Liversidge, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “We hear about this every year. This type of lending puts families under pressure to come up with more money than they can afford. We want our citizens to enjoy Christmas without the worry, and urge them to get the free money advice that is available to them.”

For free and independent advice on money and debt, contact the Money Advice Service.

Nottingham City residents with information of a Loan Shark can speak in confidence to Trading Standards on 0115 8445018 (office hours).

If you are being threatened and feel that you are in danger call the Police on 101 (non-emergency) or 999 in an emergency.