Protect yourself from loan sharks and illegal money lenders

At this time of year, it can be difficult to make your budget stretch to cover your living costs as well as costs associated with the festive period. It can be tempting to look at different ways to loan money to help your finances, but it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of this.

Loan sharks and illegal money lenders – what are they?

A loan shark is someone who loans money but isn’t registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, the official government body who regulate the money lending industry.

Loan sharks may appear friendly and approachable to begin with, but borrowing from them is risky and can leave you vulnerable to intimidation and threating behaviour when it comes to repaying them.

We know that loan sharks and other illegal money lenders often target young people aged 18 – 24, including students. In particular, be vigilant for anyone offering money lending services on social media and in WhatsApp groups – loan sharks are known to target students through these channels.

How to recognise a loan shark

According to, you can spot a loan shark by asking yourself these questions:

  • Did they offer you a cash loan?
  • Did they not give you paperwork?
  • Did they add huge amounts of interest or APR to your loan?
  • Have they threatened you?
  • Are you scared of people finding out?
  • Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, watch or other valuables from you?

What to do if you’ve been targeted by a loan shark

If you think you have borrowed from a loan shark, Stop Loan Sharks can help. You can;

  • Call their 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
  • Text a report to 078600 22116
  • Join a live chat on the website
  • E-mail

Remember, if you have borrowed money from a loan shark or other illegal lender, you haven’t done anything wrong and you will not be in trouble with the police. It is the loan shark who has committed a crime, even if they tell you otherwise.

How we can help you to manage the cost of living

Our dedicated Money Advice & Guidance offers a width breadth of services and support to students, including tips on utilities and bills and reducing your food and travel costs. You can find the full range on their webpages.

We’ve highlighted some key information and support on offer here:

Support with financial difficulty

  • If you’re experiencing difficulties with your finances, we may be able to offer you support through the University Hardship Fund – you can find more information on the Fund, how to apply, plus contact details for the Money Advice & Guidance team on the Fund’s webpage.
  • Liverpool Guild of Students also offers a short-term four-week emergency loan service for students in immediate hardship which can be used for food and other essential items. You can attend one of the Guild’s drop-ins which run Monday-Friday, 1 – 4pm, to request a loan, or get in touch with them on 0151 794 6868 and at
  • The National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) has some useful information on lots of student money issues. You can find the latest edition of their online magazine Student Money Matters here.

Food Pantry

The Food Pantry was set up to support students experiencing food poverty.

The Pantry offers a range of products, from personal hygiene and cleaning products to food cupboard staples. To apply to use the pantry, email the Money Advice and Guidance team for more information and they’ll be in touch.

If you need immediate help

If you are in immediate financial difficulty and require support please contact our Money Advice & Guidance Team on or book an online confidential one-to-one appointment.

If you are an international student, please contact our International Advice and Guidance Team on or book an appointment with them online.