Stop Loan Sharks supports people who’ve been targeted by illegal moneylenders, including people affected by dementia.
‘We are here to protect and support anyone who has been affected by loan sharks, including those with dementia, their families and their carers,’ says Cath Wohlers, Liaise Team Manager at Stop Loan Sharks.
As living costs have risen, more people have had to borrow to cover bills, care costs, energy and food.
If they’re refused credit elsewhere, they may turn to illegal moneylenders – loan sharks.
Staff at Alzheimer’s Society have been working with Stop Loan Sharks to make sure people know where to go for help and advice.
A loan shark is a person who lends money and asks for repayments without being licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
These lenders often charge high and illegal rates of interest, causing borrowers to amass huge debts or forcing them to take out further loans to keep up with repayments.
People who borrow from loan sharks are at risk of intimidation and harassment.
They also don’t have the same legal protections as those who borrow from legitimate lenders.
Key warning signs that somebody may be a loan shark include not being given paperwork or details about a loan.
They may use threatening and intimidating behaviour, or demand that you hand over items like bank cards or a passport until you can repay.
Stop Loan Sharks, set up by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, raises awareness of the dangers of this type of borrowing and works with the FCA to investigate loan sharks.
It also prosecutes illegal lenders and supports people affected by this crime in England.
Tim (not his real name) has early-onset Alzheimer’s and borrowed money from someone he considered to be a friend.
Following his diagnosis, Tim retired earlier than he would have liked and borrowed £1,200 in total due to unexpected expenses.
He struggled to keep up repayments and woke up one morning to find that his car had been vandalised.
The police put the man in touch with Stop Loan Sharks and he is no longer being harassed.
Since 2012, Stop Loan Sharks has seen 21 cases involving people affected by dementia. Of the people it supported in 2022, 8% were carers.
In one case, a woman caring for her father, who has dementia, owed loan sharks around £75,000.
She borrowed from friends and family to try to make repayments but couldn’t keep up and had her property damaged.
Thankfully, she received support after reaching out to Stop Loan Sharks.
Cath at Stop Loan Sharks says, ‘Loan sharks are predatory, ruthless criminals and they will often target the most vulnerable members of our communities for their own personal gain.
'Unfortunately, this sometimes includes those who have dementia.
The army of carers who are supporting those with dementia are also extremely vulnerable. Some of them are family members who may have had to give up work to care for their loved one.
‘Unfortunately, this often leaves them financially vulnerable and a target for loan sharks as well.’
Loan sharks are often known to the people they target. In some cases, they may be acquaintances or supporting someone with dementia in a care home.
‘We are raising awareness of the dangers of loan sharks among those in the caring profession,’ says Cath.
We offer free training to those people in frontline services on how to spot the signs that someone may have fallen victim to a loan shark.
‘We are also working with our partners to highlight the alternatives that are available to those who need to access affordable credit, such as credit unions.’
Help is available
Cath says that anyone who needs support or advice about illegal loans can get in touch with Stop Loan Sharks or equivalent organisations in other parts of the UK.
She also encourages people to approach a credit union if they’ve been refused a loan elsewhere.
Julie Osbourne, Local Services Manager for Bath and North East Somerset and Swindon at Alzheimer’s Society, says,
It’s reassuring to know that there is support available from Stop Loan Sharks and that the risk posed by loan sharks to people living with dementia is recognised and being acted upon.
‘Staff have met with our local teams to inform us of their work, raising our awareness and understanding of this issue so we are better able to provide support and refer people to the correct agencies.’
Cost of living advice
Higher care costs and rising loneliness due to the cost of living is leaving many people with dementia at risk of crisis this winter.