A day in the life of a loan shark victim

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With cuts in government spending, benefits cuts and a clampdown on payday lenders which reduces their ability to lend to as many people, charities and think tanks are noting a rise in loan shark activity in the UK. Read on for an account of what it is like to be courted by a “friendly” loan shark with offers of credit, and then to experience the threats and demands when any default occurs.

The life of Brian

Brian is an assumed name of the person whose story this is. He has not assumed a name for his own convenience, or out of fear of having his identity revealed publicly. Brian was running for his life and that’s why he needs to use an assumed identity. This is his story and it is a true story with no embellishments and no details added for effect.

Brian is a taxi driver and he was making a living from driving his cab. He was not looking for a loan, nor was he in the market for a loan, when he was approached by a “friend” who offered him a loan. He did not just offer him a loan, he pestered him into accepting a cash loan, and when Brian started to experience some cash flow problems, he reluctantly accepted the loan. All was fine until Brian needed some extra time to pay, and the “friend” he had approached started to turn nasty. Really nasty. He started being threatened with physical violence if the sum was not repaid according to the initial “terms” of the loan. He turned to established ‘cash loan’ provider Wonga but got turned down for a loan because of tough new government regulations.

What made Brian’s situation worse was that he had not told his wife that he had taken out credit, and when the calls to the family home started, Brian was powerless to do anything. Eventually he had to confess to his wife what had happened and together they faced daily threats of violence and intimidation. Worse again were the desperate measures that Brian had to resort to the repay the loan, and on some occasions this meant going without food to feed his 1 year old daughter. The options that Brian had were stark – starve and repay, or don’t repay and live in daily fear. It eventually put his marriage under strain and Brian started to receive anonymous calls to say that his daughter had been seen in casualty. Brian desperately phoned around local hospitals and tried to get hold of his daughter; only to discover that it was just a sick threat and that his little girl had not been admitted to hospital afterall.

Because Brian was working he was able to pay off the loan shark, after a short period “on the run” but he shudders to think what would have happened had he been ill or if something unexpected had occurred.

Loan sharks – on the rise

Regulation of the payday lending industry has forced established lending giants like Wonga to reduce their lending spectrum and screen out people who would otherwise have been eligible for loans. There are growing fears however that this is likely to result in a knock-on effect whereby lots more people will be in Brian’s shoes.

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