A mother-of-two has left thousands of pounds in debt after borrowing £750 from a loan shark posing as a friend ten years ago.
Kim, now 41, and her then-partner took out four loans from the same woman, giving her half of her net income each month.
The couple, who lived in north-west England, said the loan shark was a woman who previously worked for a legitimate lender.
She said: “We trusted her. We thought she was operating legally and she told us we were ‘good payers’. She came and sat in our house and made a fuss of my children.
“She told us about her family and her vacations. We were friendly. We’ve known her for a long time.”
For an initial loan of £750, Kim repaid £400 in interest. The pressure mounted when the lender asked her when her payday was and harassed her until each payment was made.
Kim took out more loans. She explained: “We’ve both been working and people think you’ve got money, but by the time you’ve paid your bills you don’t have much left in the pot.
“It’s hard when the washing machine breaks down or you don’t know where the money for Christmas is coming from – and when someone blows money in your face, you don’t think about it much.”
Then, on a difficult Christmas, Kim, after many years of paying back, realized she couldn’t afford to pay.
“She was texting me constantly and I felt like I was being followed. I had asked her if I could miss a month but the messages she sent back was that I had to pay. I had no choice.
“I thought, ‘That’s not right.’ I went to Citizens Advice about my rights and it became clear that I was not dealing with a legitimate lender.”
The lender has been arrested and the case is ongoing.
Counseling those in dire financial straits, Kim said: “It may seem like you have no choice but if you go to an illegal lender any situation you find yourself in will be made that much worse. “
The cost of living crisis could see people resorting to desperate measures to pay their bills, a West Midlands police chief has warned.
Tom McNeil said he was concerned the pressure to pay household bills could force the poorest to take extreme measures to survive.
The Assistant Superintendent of Police and Crime insisted there is no excuse for crime, but “desperate circumstances lead people to make desperate decisions”.
He accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of “monitoring poverty” as he painted a stark picture of the extreme measures struggling families could resort to.
He said he was concerned people might turn to sex work or that kids might end up selling drugs “to help their mother heat the house” or “feed their brothers and sisters.”
It comes as hundreds more people in the area have been sent to Tafel because they cannot afford to pay for groceries.
In a letter to the Chancellor, the Labor APCC said: “The levels of poverty you monitor could lead to parents stealing to feed their children. We could see car thefts increasing rental payments.
“Vulnerable people can be exploited for sex work. Children can be manipulated by hardened criminals into selling drugs because they want to help their mother heat the house, feed their brothers and sisters, and keep the loan sharks at bay.”
Mr McNeil also accused the Chancellor, fresh from scandals surrounding his wife’s tax affairs and a lockdown party fine, for not doing enough to help the worst-off families hit by soaring energy bills and other household costs was.
He said: “This will include many families who have already struggled to cope despite extreme work. Your tax hikes, coupled with soaring energy, travel and food prices, will unleash a wave of deep poverty and despair.
“I am extremely concerned that the impact of the rising cost of living will set the stage for increased crime, including youth violence.”
Loan sharks – the warning signs
Loan sharks often pose as friends, or friends through friends who are there to offer a helping hand.
They might approach you on social media, at the pub, or at work, but the reality is, strangers aren’t likely to offer you money without a catch.
These snags often include much higher interest rates than a regular bank, pressure to pay or blackmail into paying more than you owe, and the risk of being threatened or harassed if you can’t make your repayments.
And more importantly, loan sharks are illegal in the UK.
Here are some warning signs to look out for.
- A loan with no paperwork or formal or written agreement
- Refusing to give you specific details about the loan, such as B. the interest rate
- Holding onto your possessions such as your passport and bank card until the debt is paid off or as “security” for the loan
- Take things from you or intimidate you if you don’t pay on time
- Add more interest or fees so the debt never goes down
- Use of threats or violence if you fail to pay
- Friendly demeanor from a stranger who quickly turns to the conversation about money.
It might seem like a difficult step, but if you think you’re dealing with a loan shark, you can get help here.