Loan sharks preying on vulnerable families at Christmas

Posted 18 Nov 2021
  • Families are being warned not to turn to predatory loan sharks charging excessive amounts of interest if they are facing financial hardship over Christmas.
  • Research shows that Christmas is the second highest reason that people borrow money from loan sharks.
  • Help make children’s wishes come true this Christmas by supporting national campaign to raise awareness of loan sharks and promoting the support available.


The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) Christmas campaign is raising awareness of the dangers of using loan sharks and the support available to victims and their families.

Christmas is meant to be the most wonderful time of year – but for many families trapped in spiralling debt and misery by loan sharks that simply isn’t the case. That’s why the team are determined to make this year better and safer for people.

The campaign includes “Dear Santa” stories to highlight the detrimental impact illegal money lending has on families and how this crime can cause serious physical, emotional and psychological damage to children during important stages of their lives.

The heartbreaking letters to Santa don’t ask for expensive gifts like laptops or game consoles, instead children plead for help to stop loan sharks terrorising their families.

Research conducted by the IMLT found that Christmas is the second highest reason people borrow money from loan sharks after paying for essentials such as food, rent or mortgage, and utility bills.

This year there are likely to be more families impacted financially and emotionally by the pandemic and unfortunately, illegal money lenders will look to take advantage of people when cash is tight and mislead them into thinking it is the only solution.

People are being advised to watch out for warning signs of loan sharks and report them if they are approached by one. 

  • Loan sharks rarely give paperwork
  • Extra amounts and interest payments are usually added at random
  • Items including passports, bank cards and driving licences are taken as security on the loans

As the debts often cannot legally be enforced in many cases, the loan sharks will resort to threats, violence and other bully tactics to extort money from people.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England IMLT said: “Illegal money lending is a horrific crime that affects many individuals, their families and entire communities.

“At this time of year people can be more susceptible to falling prey to loan sharks due to the financial pressures of Christmas. Loan sharks will target people who feel under pressure financially and may not be aware of the services that are there to help them.

“Borrowing from a loan shark might feel like your only option when you’re in a pinch and need cash fast this festive season, but it’s important to remember that these lenders operate illegally and can turn quite nasty when demanding payments from victims.

“We encourage anyone with information about this crime to come forward and report. We will provide specialist support and take action against the loan shark. If you need help with money worries, contact your local Citizens Advice for free, confidential and impartial advice.”

Protect yourself and your loved ones from loan sharks this Christmas

  1. If you need to borrow money, check the lender is reputable and find out what interest and fees they charge. You can find out whether a money lender is authorised by checking the register on the FCA website at
  2. Be wary of people you don’t know sending you messages through your social media accounts. Loan sharks might offer you a quick deal, but they will soon trap you in a spiral of debt with extortionate rates of interest.
  3. Never send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  4. Be careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Loan sharks have been known to use online platforms to find, threaten and control people in debt.

Anyone with concerns about illegal money lending can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222.

You can also find additional information and support online at Live Chat is available on the website 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).