Loan sharks are adapting their tactics to take advantage of those struggling financially and feeling vulnerable during the national lockdown.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is a national team cracking down on loan sharks and providing support for victims and survivors of illegal money lending.

The IMLT is warning about the dangers of online loan sharks amid concerns more people are falling prey to unscrupulous lenders on social media.

The Covid-19 outbreak has meant loan sharks have been unable to find and snare their victims at traditional places such as the pub or the school gates. These criminals are now using social media to plug their illicit activities and prey on vulnerable people who have lost their jobs or part of their income.

The IMLT investigates and prosecutes loan sharks for illegal money lending and related offences. In past cases this has included blackmail, threatening behaviour, violence, kidnap, drugs offences and even rape.

How to spot and avoid loan sharks

If you’re in need of an urgent loan or financial support, be wary of anyone that fits the criteria below. Remember, if in doubt, check the lender out! Anyone lending money must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can check the register at

If you have already borrowed from a loan shark, the important thing to remember is you are not in trouble and there is help available.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs to look out for:

  • No paperwork – Paperwork makes something seem more legitimate, and loan sharks avoid it at all costs! If you’re taking out a loan, make sure you always get a credit agreement or have a record of payments.

  • ·Cash loans or bank transfers – Loan sharks often use unregulated and illegitimate ways of lending money but during the lockdown, they may use bank transfers to avoid getting caught on the street.

  • Refusing to give you information about the loan – Most loan sharks will avoid giving you clear details about your loan, such as the interest rate, previous repayments and the total amount you owe.

  • Taking possessions for security – Some loan sharks will take personal possessions, such as a passport or bank cards, to act as security and ensure you make repayments.

  • Loan that keeps on growing – Loan sharks may increase the debt or add additional charges at any time, even if you are making regular payments. It’s important you seek help because the debt can spiral out of control very quickly. 

  • Threats of violence – Loan sharks often use intimidation and threats to frighten people into paying back their loan. Some even become violent towards their victims if they fail to pay.

If you believe you have borrowed from a loan shark, contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence on 0300 555 2222.

You can also use Stop Loan Sharks Live Chat to access discreet support if you’re not ready or able to make the call. This method may be useful if you are self-isolating or working from home and don’t want people around you to know about your situation.

You can chat online with a support worker between 9am and 5pm weekdays at

If you feel unsafe and feel that you are in immediate danger, always contact the police via 999.

Category: Community