Loan sharks and the spiral of debt

Here’s a true story about a lady whose life has been dramatically affected by Loan sharks. Please take 5 minutes to read her story and if  you, or someone you know, are experiencing similar problems there’s a helpline number and advice below.



Pauline* from Salford took out her first loan with a loan shark in the run up to Christmas, after her husband was involved in a car accident. With only her wages, it was a struggle to get by. The loan shark was friendly, he was helpful, there was a bit of interest- £210 back for borrowing £150, but the loan was repaid no problem. Following this Pauline went out to take out more loans and the debt began to spiral.

Every time she began to fall into difficulties, the loan shark would suggest she took out another larger loan to pay off the first. He never gave her any paperwork, so she quickly lost track of how much she was paying. In time all of her money was going back to the loan shark and she was left with nothing. She began to fall behind on mortgage repayments as she felt she had to choose between the house and him.

As she struggled to repay she saw another side to the man who’d been so kind before- she now knew he wasn’t a legitimate lender. The loan shark, a former boxer, would turn up at her home, late at night demanding repayment and threatening to take her belongings.

He came to her work on a number of occasions and would ring to say he was outside. When Pauline said she couldn’t leave he threatened to tell her boss about the trouble she was in. As far as Pauline knew he never did but the fear of people knowing and the intimidation was enough, and Pauline would stay at work late until she knew he had left.

Pauline hadn’t told her husband about the loans – she didn’t want him worrying. The loan shark knew Pauline wouldn’t want her husband finding out so to make life difficult for her he took all the TV and DVD remotes when visiting her home, posting them back a few days later.

On one visit the loan shark, stood in her front room and asked unsettling questions about her family, unnerved by what he was capable of, she took all the pictures of her children and grandchildren down from the mantelpiece.



On another, he told her not to let her dogs out in the garden, as they wouldn’t come back. Pauline was terrified, she took this as a threat that her pets would be harmed, and also released he had been watching her home.


The final straw was when the loan shark turned up at her home with two well built men. He held her by the throat against the wall and forced her to hand over her wedding ring, telling her she didn’t deserve luxuries.

The fear and worry took its toll on Pauline, she couldn’t sleep and became ill. She turned to drink and as a result ended up taking time off work. During the ordeal she suffered a heart attack, which she puts down to the stress and worry.

For a long time she was constantly looking over her shoulder, afraid to even go to work alone. When she told her husband, it put a great pressure on their relationship.

The loan shark was reported to the England Illegal Money Lending Team, sentenced to four years in prison, and ordered to pay back almost £270,000 in ill gotten gains. Pauline was one of nearly 900 ‘customers’ to his criminal enterprise. As the loans were illegal, Pauline and his other customers were under no legal obligation to repay.

Having paid back fifteen times the amount she had borrowed, Pauline was relieved to see him behind bars and could begin to rebuild her life.  The team provided continued emotional support and referred her to other partner agencies to ensure that she wouldn’t loose her home following late payments on her mortgage.


It is only now that Pauline feels comfortable telling her story, and would encourage anyone else to avoid loan sharks at all costs.

If you think you may be the victim of a loan shark, please contact the team in confidence, as they can help you get back on your feet, just like Pauline.


*Name has been changed.


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