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Loan sharks are unlicensed moneylenders operating outside the law and without any financial regulation; they are lending money without a credit licence from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). They usually charge very high interest rates, may take your benefit entitlement or other valuable items as security and sometimes use threats and violence to frighten people who can't repay.
Appearances can be deceptive, because many loan sharks often first come across as a helpful community service. But legal moneylenders have to be licensed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and must follow strict regulations enforced by Trading Standards. If you have any doubt about the legality of a moneylender, call the Consumer Credit Public Register on 020 7211 8608 between 9.30am and 4pm on any weekday.
Failure to repay a loan from an unlicensed lender is not a criminal offence. If you have borrowed money from an illegal source, not licensed by the OFT, you are under no legal obligation to repay the debt. Contact the National Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222 or Consumer Direct South West on 08454 040506. If the loan shark threatens you immediately report it to the police.
There are reputable lenders who will consider your situation whatever your circumstance. You may still have to pay a high rate of interest but the Consumer Credit Act will safeguard your loan agreement. If you're on a low income and need to borrow a small amount for a short time, look into borrowing from a credit union. Your local benefits office is also empowered to make emergency payments if needed.
- Bristol Debt Advice Centre. Telephone 0117 954 3990 or drop-in Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 48-54 West Street, Bristol, BS2 0BL. or visit www.bdac.org.uk
- Bristol Citizen's Advice Bureau. Telephone 0844 499 4718 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk
- Bristol Credit Union – 0117 924 7309 or drop in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10am to 2.30pm at 112 Cheltenham Road, Stokes Croft,Bristol, BS2 5RW or visit the Bristol Credit Union web site
- Severn Four Credit Union 0117 938 1439 or visit St Mary Church Hall, Shirehampton 10.30am to 11.30am on Fridays or visit www.severnfour.co.uk
- National Debt Line offers free, confidential and independent help over the phone. Their helpline on 0808 8084 000 is manned 9am and 9pm on weekdays and 9.30 am to 1pm on Saturdays (and you can leave a voicemail message at other times).
- Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) is a helpline providing free and impartial advice to people with debt problems on 0800 1381 111 from 8am to 8pm on weekdays.
To report a loan shark call the following numbers but if you feel in danger do not hesitate to call the police.
- National Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222
- Consumer Direct South West on 08454 040506
- You call also email the team at email@example.com
Trading Standards Service Brunel House St Georges Road Bristol, BS1 5UY Opening Hours
Monday to Thursday 9am - 4.30pm
Monday to Thursday 9am - 4.30pm
Friday 9am - 4pm
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Work: 0117 922 3604
- Fax: 0117 922 3803