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Depths of Wales’ illegal money lending underworld to be uncovered

Stop Loan Sharks Wales, who provide support to victims of illegal money lending and related crimes, has commissioned in depth research to uncover the extent of illegal money lending in Wales, amid worrying predictions that victims of loan sharks are set to increase as the cost-of-living crisis worsen.

This is the first time Wales-specific research on illegal money lending has been undertaken and will provide vital information to help Stop Loan Sharks Wales tackle the issue in communities.

The research is part of their new campaign ‘Sound familiar?’.

The campaign places targeted adverts and messages right at the heart of communities; it highlights the dangers associated with illegal money lending, helps people recognise if they are in an unsafe lending situation and encourages calls to the helpline.


As increases in inflation and household bills coincide with annual pinch points like Christmas, families are facing greater financial pressures. And according to Stop Loan Sharks Wales this is when illegal money lenders capitalise on people’s worries and desperation.

They warn people against falling into the trap of a loan shark, who may appear to be friendly and helpful in times of need but turn into a threatening presence further down the line; they may begin to demand higher payments or even resort to using violence.


Tell-tale signs of an illegal money lender:

Illegal money lenders, or loan sharks, often:

  • – appear friendly and helpful at first
  • – make people pay back a lot more than they borrowed
  • – rarely provide paperwork
  • – end up taking possessions such as bank cards or passport for security
  • – target people in everyday places such as the school gates, over WhatsApp or at the pub
  • – groom their victims who are often vulnerable people


Sarah Smith, Team Manager at Stop Loan Sharks Wales, said:

“Everyone we speak to is worried about the cost-of-living crisis. Before, most loan shark victims would be borrowing money due to unforeseen circumstances, like their fridge-freezer breaking down or their child urgently needing new school uniform. There’s been a shift over the last couple of years where the primary reason for borrowing now is to pay for everyday essentials like food and household bills.

“The current crisis is only exacerbating the issue, with loan sharks taking advantage of people who find themselves in precarious financial situations.”

On the loan sharks themselves, Sarah added:

“Many of these illegal lenders don’t fit the stereotype. We’ve had cases where the loan shark has been in their 80s, or a supervisor taking advantage of staff on zero hours contracts; we’ve even had a loan shark operating in a leadership role in a church group. But the one thing they all have in common is their complete lack of empathy and greed.”

A recent report* suggests victims of loan sharks in Wales could be in the tens of thousands with the pandemic leaving many people isolated and unable to seek help.

In Caerphilly, a couple borrowed £100 from a loan shark, but over the next 10 years they were forced to pay back a shocking £96,000. By this time, they were grandparents.

Another victim, based in Wrexham, was a young father who’d recently lost his job as a labourer. He met the loan shark in the pub, and what started as a small loan over a pint ended with the loan shark kicking down his door and forcibly entering his family’s home.

In both cases, the loan sharks had taken bank cards and passports away from the victims to keep control over their extremely high payments.

Stop Loan Sharks Wales protects and supports victims of illegal money lending and related crimes, as well as investigating and prosecuting loan sharks in Wales. The results of the research will be published in early 2023.

If you’re worried about your own situation, or somebody you know, please contact Stop Loan Sharks Wales for safe, confidential advice and support. Call 0300 123 3311 or visit

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