Spot criminals and protect yourself against loan sharks

Experts discuss the scam in this week’s Scam Watch with James Walker from Rightly and Louise Baxter from the National Trading Standards Scams Team.

With costs rising around us, more people will be looking to take out a loan, but if you are looking for a loan, be sure to borrow from a legitimate company and be aware of criminals and their often too-good-to-be-true offers. These scams can offer guaranteed loans that require you to pay an upfront fee for the loan. Once the fee has been paid, you do not hear from the criminals again and the loan is never received.

Be aware of loan sharks

A loan shark is someone who lends money to people without the required licence issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). So, before you get into any arrangement, be sure to check the FCA’s Financial Services Register.

If a lender isn’t listed as having a current credit licence, don’t borrow money from them.

Ways to check if the lender is legit

Can you answer YES to any of the questions below? If yes, you may have been approached by a loan shark. If this is the case you need to report it.

  • Have you been offered a cash loan?
  • Have you been threatened when you couldn’t pay it back?
  • Does what you owe keep growing even though you are making payments?

When you report the loan shark, it will be confidential, and you can report anonymously.

For more advice, and to report a loan shark visit Stop Loan Sharks.

READ MORE: Martin Lewis shares how to save £191.90 a year on energy bills

What are payday loans?

Payday loans are small sums of money paid over a short period of time and are available from the high street and websites. Lenders usually hold a Consumer Credit Licence, (but it’s worth checking) and charge very high-interest rates.

If you decide to get a loan this way then make sure you shop around and know and understand all the charges before you borrow any money.

There may be better ways to borrow money at lower interest rates. Have you considered a loan from a credit union?

How to avoid this sort of scam

  • Read the small print (terms & conditions)
  • Make sure the terms & conditions box has not been pre-ticked
  • If you do sign up and there is a cancellation period. Make sure you cancel within that timeframe if you want to cancel
  • Never provide bank details to a business without doing some checking first
  • Keep a copy of any advert you respond to
  • Is the company UK based? This could mean cancelling is much harder if they aren’t
  • Check your accounts regularly for unexpected payments

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Q1 With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales extended, how do I avoid knowing what is real and what is a scam?

Avoid buying from unfamiliar sellers: The growth of independent retail websites means consumers face some uncertainty if they want to buy unique or novelty items from less well known brands. Always take the extra time to read reviews and verify that you’re dealing with a legitimate company. If you’re buying from an unfamiliar retailer, take extra precaution and do your research such as using Trustpilot to check for genuine reviews and ScamAdvisor website to see if the url scores high or low on the legitimacy scale.

Beware of dodgy looking websites: Sometimes the scammers make very poor websites with dodgy links. Sometimes simple spelling errors or deliberate letter changes in company names can give it away. And lastly, never click unfamiliar links!

Tips of the week

Always take a moment to stop and think before you give out any information. This simple action could save you hundreds – or even thousands – of pounds. Remember, a genuine firm will never pressure you into an immediate decision.

Don’t click on a link sent to you out of the blue, even if it looks legitimate. Go to the official website for the information, or for the correct contact details to get in touch yourself.

Look after yourself, your loved ones, and neighbours. Anyone can be vulnerable due to their situation or circumstances, so we all need to stay alert. Talk about scams and share information. If you think you have been a victim, report it.

Remember: If you have received a text you think is a scam then you can forward to 7726 or take a screenshot and send it to [email protected]. If you are receiving lots of unwanted phone calls or text messages you can also consider removing your details from data brokers, ensuring that you use a right to object to processing of your data. You can learn more about this on Rightly to stop the sharing of your data exposing you to scams. And you can take a free training course on how to fight against scams on The more we talk about scams the more we take away the shame.

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