High-interest lender victims still repaying debt as fatcats enjoy luxury lives

Victims of high-interest lenders have told how they are still paying back loans years later as the fatcats who made a fortune exploiting them enjoy millionaire lifestyles.

As we launch our Fair Credit For All campaign with actor Michael Sheen, Matthew Skeen tells how he got saddled with £12,000 of debt after getting hooked on loans from firms such as Wonga.

He said: “It was a click of a button, and then the money was in my account a few hours later. It was so easy. You get the answer you want immediately. You don’t think about the consequences. I just kept going back. It was like a drug.”

Wonga founder Errol Damelin walked away from the payday firm with at least £17million in 2013, and moved into new ventures, including online estate agent Purple Bricks. He has never apologised for the misery Wonga has caused.

Matthew, 26, from Newcastle, faces years of hardship because of loans he took out a year after Damelin left.

He had 19 loans with Wonga and other providers, including Everyday Loans and Pounds to Pocket. One loan paid the first month’s rent on a flat, but the loans spiralled out of control. He now owes a total of £12,000 to various lenders.

He said: “My pay wasn’t high enough to pay all of my weekly loan payments. I started cutting down on food. I was not paying my electricity bill and council tax.

“I was walking all the way to work because I couldn’t afford to get on the Metro. Once I had paid one off, I had to go back because I needed another loan. They had roped me in.”

At his lowest point he was doing internet searches for companies offering loans with no credit checks.

Everyday’s website boasts it lends to people with bad credit, and offer a “conditional decision” on a loan within minutes.

Matthew, who works in customer services for a train operator, said: “The companies like Wonga were never honest. There should have been far more strenuous checks. There is no doubt that the ads on TV influenced me.

“I took out one loan for £400 and paid them back £700 for that. It was outrageous. But I didn’t take that into account at the time because I needed the money.

“It has caused me a lot of stress. I am engaged now, but can’t get a mortgage as I have a County Court Judgement against me for not paying a phone bill.”

Matthew is now being helped by debt charity Step Change, which is part of Sheen’s End High Cost Credit Alliance.

Matthew said: “They were really supportive and helped me a lot.”

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