Wise up to illegal loan sharks

‘Loan shark’ is a common term used to describe illegal lenders. Anyone charging interest on money loaned without proper authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’) may be acting illegally. Illegal lenders cannot be trusted and borrowing from them may mean trouble for you. They're often friendly at first, but that is unlikely to last and can often lead to threatening or violent behaviour. Three clues to help you spot a potential loan shark are:

No documentation

Illegal lenders tend not to bother with paperwork or formal agreements – if your lender has not provided you with any documentation, they may be acting illegally.

No checks on your ability to repay

An authorised lender should usually make a reasonable assessment of your creditworthiness to make sure you can afford to make the repayments on your loan. If no checks are made, they could be a shark.

They don’t tell you how much you owe

Loan sharks want to keep you in the dark about how much you owe. Are you clear about how much you have left to repay?

Loan Smart is a charity dedicated to helping people avoid borrowing from loan sharks and dodgy lenders. But if we're to stop them, we need your help. So, if you suspect a loan shark, please report them to the Illegal Money Lending Team. If we work together, we can get wise to dodgy lenders. Report them via the Stop Loan Sharks website using the link below.

Check their status Report them

Catch a shark

In almost all cases, only firms and individuals that are authorised by the FCA are allowed to lend money in the UK, whether that is face-to-face or over the internet. The FCA makes sure that authorised firms are lending responsibly, ensuring that consumers are protected.

Just because a lender appears to be above board, they may not be.

The search bar at the top of this site allows you to check who's fully authorised by the FCA. So if the name of your lender doesn't come up, you should contact the FCA to double check their status – better safe than sorry.

If you suspect a lender is a loan shark, you can help by reporting them to the Illegal Money Lending Teams via the 'Stop Loan Sharks' website.

If you report them, they can be stopped.

Check their status Report them
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In trouble? Be smart.

If you think you're in danger right now or are being threatened by a loan shark, consider going to the police - even if a loan shark has threatened you with the police themselves. Authorised lenders do not threaten to use the police to collect a debt. So remember, you are not in trouble and have done nothing wrong; they are the ones committing the crime and the loan is legally unenforceable.

Alternatively, if you are struggling to escape the clutches of a loan shark, get help using the details below. Talking to someone who understands what you are going through can really help - your local Illegal Money Lending Team will be able to help and support you. They will also be able to investigate your situation more fully.

If you searched for a lender on Loan Smart and they're not registered, check their status with the FCA.

If you think they could be a loan shark, here's what you can do next:

1. Do nothing - this is always an option but isn't going to help us weed out illegal lenders. By sharing your experience, you might be able to help stop illegal lenders from preying on the vulnerable.

2. Contact your local Illegal Money Lending Team (see details below) and tell them what is happening - they are hugely experienced and can really help.

3. Get other help - might you want to talk to someone for some general advice about money matters or something else? If you are feeling uncomfortable, it might be worth talking to someone that can help - contact one of the organisations listed below. Their experienced advisers can talk you through a range of possible options on what to do next.

Do the right thing and report them. If you choose to report them, you don't have to give your name.

We really want your help.

Who you report a loan shark to depends on where you live in the UK:


Illegal Money Lending Unit

imlu@cardiff.gov.uk 0300 123 3311 07772 608 931

Trading Standards Scotland

tsscot.co.uk/report 0800 074 0878
Northern Ireland

Trading Standards Consumer line

www.consumerline.org 0300 123 6262

Get help here

Being Loan Smart is about getting support when you need it. There are lots of places you can get free, confidential advice, whatever you're worried about. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can start to put things right.