Online loan sharks are circulating on social networks this Christmas

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According to the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit (WIMLU) and the Credit Unions of Wales, loan sharks are turning to social media to hook people up to a cycle of dangerous debt.

WIMLU Director Sarah Smith said there are fears that in the Covid pandemic and in the run-up to Christmas more and more people will fall prey to unscrupulous lenders online: advertising their loans illegal acts and target potential victims.

“They also use social media community groups and local sales pages.”

Citizens’ Advice reported that more than 280,000 people in Wales fell behind on essential bills, and a third of those with overdue family bills could not afford food or other items essential since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

With people in Wales struggling financially as a result of the pandemic, fear is that the extra Christmas spending will make them vulnerable to illegal money lenders.

Illegal money lenders will lure people in with seemingly attractive loan offers, but will quickly resort to intimidation, threats, and violence to enforce repayment and trap borrowers in a terrifying debt spiral.

Leanne Herberg, CEO of Cardiff & Vale Credit Union, said: “There is evidence that one in five victims have met their lender on social media in England, and it is likely that there are similar rates in the country of Wales. “.

“Restrictions on in-person dating during the pandemic mean many of us are spending more time online, and unfortunately that means loan sharks have easier access to people than ever before.

“When you consider the amount of personal information we share on social media, that only adds to the danger of online loan sharks, who may seem friendly at first, but that can quickly change.

“As ethical, member-owned savings and credit providers, credit unions provide trusted financial services to people in our communities in Wales that are both secure and affordable.

“We are available online, in branch and by phone and urge anyone considering taking any form of credit this Christmas to ensure it is from a regulated lender.”

WIMLU would always recommend that people who need to borrow money speak to their local credit union about safe and ethical financial products and services.

Sarah Smith of WIMLU said: “We urge people to be vigilant while online – if you spot a suspicious loan ad on social media, report it to WIMLU on the confidential 24-hour hotline. 0300 123 33 11. And if you’ve borrowed money from a loan shark, we’re here to help.

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