In May, the diocesan Modern Day Slavery conference in Wordsley heard something about the dangers of illegal money lending. It’s one of the ways in which some people can get trapped in slavery. It is also just as easy to hide as other slavery related crimes, but some simple awareness and a willingness to report it, can make all the difference and change people’s lives.

A loan shark is someone who lends cash as an unauthorised business and they’re not always easy to spot. They will at first appear friendly, just part of the community, but when you can’t pay, they will turn on you.

A loan shark will often resort to threats, violence and intimidation, even if the debt has been paid off several times over. They will typically have little paperwork and, will add penalty charges for late payments. Sometimes they will add random sums to the bill.

Many victims keep paying because they think they can afford the agreed weekly sum, but they don’t realise how much their continuing weekly payments add up to or they are to afraid to stop payments.

Mikes Story

Aged 17, Mike* was keen to buy his first car. When Peter* offered to lend him £250, Mike agreed and began paying back in instalments until the loan was repaid. It was only then that Peter mentioned additional interest, Mike wasn’t expecting this and found it difficult to repay, so Peter offered him a further loan to pay off the first.

This became a cycle and continued over the next two decades.Mike was trapped in a never ending spiral of debt, and struggled to get by, despite working two jobs. He would make large repayments but his outstanding balance would never drop below £9000. Over the years Mike paid a staggering £90,000 to the loan shark, all from an initial loan of £250.

On more than one occasion, Mike attempted suicide.

“You wouldn’t wish it on anybody” He said “It affected my relationship with my wife. If I wasn’t at work, I was home arguing, and it affected the kids. They had nothing. Every Friday and Saturday he was sat outside my work. It was a living nightmare”

The turning point was when Mike spotted an article in his local paper about a loan shark who had been prosecuted by the Team. Peter was now threatening to harm Mike’s wife and realising he couldn’t take any more Mike called the confidential hotline.

From that point forwards he was supported and Peter was prosecuted and imprisoned.

“I wish I’d known there was somewhere to go years ago,” Mike said. “The Team were fantastic, they offered so much support, and delivered on every promise they made. It was such a relief when I found out Peter was arrested and then put in prison. I would tell anyone who is borrowing from a loan shark to be confident to stand up and speak out- the Team will support you the whole way. Even a year later the Team are always there for me, regularly in touch and always on the end of the phone.”

If you're worried about the impact of a loan shark, call the team in confidence on 0300 555 2222Text: 07860 022116, email: reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or visit: www.stoploansharks.co.uk.