Citizens Advice is demanding a ban on cold calling by credit brokers and up front fees for loans, saying that people are being pressurised into parting with cash for loans which never materialise.
Here's the story of one target of the scam, Yvonne Weekes, who lives in Cornwall...
I was filling in a survey on the computer and one of the things that came up was: "Would you be thinking of getting a loan any time in the near future?". I thought: funny it should come up just when I'm thinking of getting some money and I clicked on it.
The following morning I had a phone call from a loan company, offering me £1,000.
I said I only needed £200. I said that I do pyrography. I burn pictures on wood and I needed a new machine
She said the least they could lend was £500. I said I didn't need that.
She said maybe you're thinking of a holiday. You could do with a weekend away somewhere.
Then I thought I'm going away with my daughter and granddaughter. It would be useful. She was very, very persuasive.
She asked for all my details. Then she said the only thing we need to do is to get your bank details because we charge a fee of £67. We don't take that out of your bank, we take that out of the payment of the £500.
I thought I'm not keen on giving my details and I said I don't really want to give away my bank details.
She said said have you ever bought anything on ebay? It's the same thing, she said, except we deal with thousands of people every day and we never have any problems. It won't cause you any problems at all. So I gave them my bank details.
Five days went by and I rang them up and it was an answering machine. I left a message: when do I get this money?
I went into the bank and checked where I stood. £67 had been taken out of my bank account. Of course I didn't get any loan: it never came through at all. I phoned them 20 times.
They sold on my details and the first thing I knew was I got another phone call: "We understand you're looking for a loan, Yvonne".
It just went on and on. I got 60 phone calls.
It's very, very stressful because not only have you not got the money you applied for,but you're getting harassed by people.
It gets to the point where you're not just upset. I was really, really upset: I couldn't believe I had been so naïve as to be taken in by them.
Then I started to get angry. They're doing that to me. What if they do that to someone who's ten years older than me and they're desperate for the money?
Do not under any circumstances give out your bank details. If somebody rings you and they want information just tell them to go away and you're not interested.