WREXHAM Council has advised residents who may be struggling this Christmas to avoid turning to loan sharks.

Loan sharks are people who operate illegally without a consumer credit authority and prey on people who are vulnerable – whether because of poverty, debt, or difficulties in their lives, such as addiction or health problems.

When money is tight, the offer of ready cash, especially with Christmas drawing closer, could be very appealing to the public.

The Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit (WIMLU), who are a government agency that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks, warn that they will rip off borrowers by charging extortionate interest.

The WIMLU have stated that 400,000% APR is not unheard of and that loan sharks can add on penalty payments as and when they want.

Roger Mapleson, Trading Standards and licensing lead, said: “Sharks don’t give you paperwork explaining the terms of the loan.

“You have to keep paying them back until they decide you can stop.

“They may seem like your best mate when they offer the loan, and when you pay – but if you can’t pay, they will add yet more to the debt and use threats, intimidation and violence to secure further payments.

“One of our primary concerns is that the level of fear can be so great that victims are too afraid to report or seek help.

“The message to anyone in this situation is that there is help available.

“You can report in confidence to the illegal moneylending team who can support you and tackle the criminals.”

Specialist client liaison officers will support and assist victims, advising on debt and other problems.

The WIMLU, stated: “Loan sharks should be warned.

“We are determined to stamp out this crime.”

The council has also advised that there are far cheaper and safer way of getting a loan, which includes using your Credit Union.

The Credit Union offer applicants an easy application, low interest rates, quick decisions, and no early repayment penalties.

If you are struggling with debt and do not know what to do, there is help for you to get your money under control via the Consumer Advice Line on 03454040506.