How can you get support without needing a loan shark in Glasgow

With the cost of living crisis adding further pressure on families, individuals and businesses, we look at how you can get help and look at avoiding loan sharks.

Be careful this winter during the cost-of-living crisis with loan sharks keen to take advantage.  Be careful this winter during the cost-of-living crisis with loan sharks keen to take advantage.
Be careful this winter during the cost-of-living crisis with loan sharks keen to take advantage.

As millions feel the pinch from the cost-of-living crisis - where do you turn when the ends don’t meet? For many of those struggling, it’s loved-ones, or credit cards perhaps.

But for more than a million people in the UK - thought to be a conservative estimate - the answer is loan sharks, an illegal service that allow people to borrow money but expect a large quantity in return and there’s repercussions if that doesn’t happen.

People have had their lives changed upside down as a result, broken kneecaps, windows smashed and fights have escalated as a result of people using this illegal service.

Back in 2011, a Glasgow loan shark who charged people interest rates of more than 719,000% faced having his assets seized under proceeds of crime legislation.

Colin Morrison, 46, admitted illegally lending money at his home address and other areas of the city between January 2004 and January 2010.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how his money demands left one vulnerable couple with £15 a week to live on. Recent cases haven’t come to light in the surrounding area yet but there’s that warning that more damage could happen during these tough times.

Here - we give you some basic information about what a loan shark is and how to get help from elsewhere.

What is a loan shark?

A money lender has to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to lend money legally. Money lenders who aren’t authorised by the FCA are breaking the law. They are known as loan sharks.

Loan sharks often work from home, charge very high rates of interest and don’t give you much paperwork to confirm the arrangements they’ve made with you. A loan shark usually has lots of customers and lends money like a business, but their lending is illegal.

They often take other illegal action to collect the money they’ve lent you, such as threatening violence or taking away your credit cards or valuables. In extreme cases, they’ve been known to force non-payers into prostitution and drug dealing.

Borrowing from friends and family

Not all lending needs to be authorised by the FCA - for example, informal, one-off loans between friends or family aren’t against the law. If you’re not sure if a loan needs to be authorised by the FCA, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Even if a loan is informal, anyone who lends you money can’t do anything illegal when they collect it, such as harassing you.

What to do if you owe money to a loan shark?

In Scotland, you can speak in confidence to the National Trading Standards Scotland team to report an illegal money lender on 0800 074 0878, or report it online to them at

What do local councillors and MPs say on the matter?

More Glasgow families could be forced into the hands of loan sharks or payday lenders as it is predicted 95,000 households will survive on credit over coming months.

Councillor Audrey Dempsey raised concerns about an “increasing reliance on predatory lenders” and asked what the council will do to prevent it in the city.

Council leader Susan Aitken said “there is a real danger” that many relying on credit will turn to illegal lenders.

A council meeting heard social enterprise lender Scotcash, which is supported by the council, provide an alternative offering more affordable loans.

Speaking at a full council meeting last month, SNP councillor Susan Aitken said the Glasgow City Region Intelligence Hub “has predicted that across the region 95,000 households are going to be forced to rely on credit to get by over the coming months.”

She stated: “Given the limited access many of them will have to regulated lenders because of their credit history there is a real danger that many of those people will feel the need to turn to illegal lenders.

“The scourge of illegal lending in Glasgow is sadly nothing new and in recent years the council has become a founding member of Scotcash, a community lender offering loans to individuals who find it difficult to access mainstream lending and providing an alternative to high cost lending and most importantly illegal money lending.”

Asking about the potential of practical help, Labour councillor Dempsey said: “Is there any scope or possibility to provide lunch vouchers, parking vouchers, shopping vouchers discounted childcare and discounted travel cost?

“There are lots of possibilities out there. Is the administration willing to explore them?”

Councillor Aitken replied: “The short answer is yes, we are exploring them right now and implementing them.”

She pointed out work being carried out by the council including the distribution of £1m top up heating vouchers and the opening of warm banks this month – known as welcoming centres.

Where to go for help?

Council service Glasgow Helps – which supports people to get food, fuel, money advice and other matters, the team at Glasgow Help will listen to what you need, what your aims are, and work with you to help you access the right support services at the right time in the right place.

Financial Wellbeing Hub - Glasgow Credit Union - They help you get debt advice, budgeting, savings, borrowing more money as well as giving your finances an overhaul if needed.

Don’t feel like your alone during these tough times, there’s support out there and reach out to your loved ones.

Channel 4 released a powerful and compelling documentary on how people have been exposed by loan sharks which can be viewed here.