Advice Column: Loan Sharks

Thursday 13th December 2018

As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo advice column this week we focus on our illegal money lending.

 I read online that a loan shark had been sentenced for illegal money lending in Devon.  What is illegal money lending, and what should I be looking out for?

 A money lender has to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to lend money legally. Money lenders who aren’t authorised by the FCA are breaking the law. They are known as loan sharks.

Illegal money lending is a serious criminal offence and carries a two-year prison sentence and £5,000 fine for offenders. Loan sharks prey on vulnerable people in financial hardship.  These criminals charge very high rates of interest and don’t give you much, if any, paperwork to confirm the arrangements they’ve made with you. A loan shark usually has lots of customers and lends money like a business, but their lending is illegal.

Loan sharks often take other illegal action to collect the money they’ve loaned, such as threatening violence or taking away credit cards or valuables. In extreme cases, they’ve been known to force non-payers into prostitution and drug dealing.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is a government agency that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks whilst providing support to victims and communities under the control of illegal money lenders. The IMLT have secured more than 380 prosecutions for loan sharks, leading to nearly 330 years’ worth of custodial sentences.  £74million of illegal debt has been written off with over 28,000 people helped.

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?
  • Was there no paperwork to support the loan?
  • Did they add huge amounts of interest or annual percentage rate (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?


If you think are the victim of a loan shark, call the IMLT 24 hour hotline on 0300 555 2222 or text a report to 07860022116. You can also email the team on or complete a secure form online at

You can find out whether a money lender is authorised by checking the register on the FCA website at

Look out for our column next week when we focus on universal credit.

 The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit