Illegal money lenders are targeting people with “very predatory practises” in the run up to Christmas, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has warned.
Christmas costs an average of €1,000 euro per family and the charity says more and more people are struggling to make ends meet.
“Demand for our services is up this year given the cost-of-living crisis and the pressure households are under in terms of energy bills and food bills,” SVP Social Justice and Policy Head Tricia Keilthy told The Pat Kenny Show.
“Christmas time would always be a very busy time for the society - about 40% of our calls usually come in during the last few months of the year.
“Last week, our regional offices took on average 1,200 calls per home from families and individuals who are worried about turning the heating on.
“But also, parents who are dreading the thought of Christmas because it puts so much pressure on families who are already struggling to get by.”
Borrowing to get by
Increasingly, people are borrowing money to get them through the holiday season but the charity is concerned about unregulated lenders who charge them extortionate interest rates.
Some money lenders have even been known to lurk outside social welfare offices and demand payment when they see a debtor exit the building.
“There are very, very predatory practises by these illegal money lenders and we’d be very concerned of practises such as that,” Ms Keilthy said.
“Really, it should be a matter for the Guards [if] that kind of activity is going on but people are desperate.”
The charity suggests that those who need to borrow do so from lenders regulated by the Central Bank and fully understand how much a loan will cost to repay in full.
“The Credit Union have a good offering called the ‘It Makes Sense’ loan and that’s a low-cost loan for people on low incomes, people in receipt of social welfare,” she said.
“That’s a very low interest rate and there’s an easier application process for that. So, we would direct people to their local Credit Union in the first instance.”
Main image: A man being lent money. Picture by: Alamy.com