Simon Read: Now lenders are targeting late-night revellers

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The Independent Online

Do you regularly get texts late in the evening? I don't. So when my phone beeped at 10.30pm last Saturday, I was a little alarmed. Who could be texting me then? And what was the emergency?

My phone didn't recognise the number but, from the opening words, it was obviously from a friend, as it began "Hi mate". (Thinking about it in hindsight, very few of my friends would address me thus, but hey-ho.)

The message continued: "Im still out in town." The missing apostrophe, the lateness of the text and the message itself all pointed to just one thing: one of my friends was a bit drunk and having a high old time painting the town red somewhere.

I chuckled to myself at the thought that someone I knew was gallavanting about raising hell on Saturday while I was having a quiet supper indoors with some friends.

So the next part of the message came as a bit of a shock. "Just got £1000 in my account from these guys firstpaydayloanuk."

Crikey, it seemed that one of my friends was in trouble – so much trouble that he or she had to resort to a rip-off high-cost short-term loan.

But, of course, the text wasn't from one of my friends. When I rang the number back it was unobtainable. That was because it was a spam message sent on behalf of the payday lender.

Spam texts have become a modern annoyance. As quickly as rogue firms which bombard people with problem texts are identified and shut down, others rise up to take their place.

They don't do so to annoy us. They do so because it's a profitable way to get business. So of the many thousands of other people who probably got exactly the same text as me last Saturday night, some may have been tired and emotional enough to fall for it.

The underlying message of the text, as far as I can work out, is "borrow cash and have a great night out!" I don't know what sort of drugs habit warrants borrowing £1,000 on a Saturday night, but there you go.

The whole marketing exercise targeted party people with the tempting offer that they could continue their carousing into the small hours and, with £1,000 in their pocket, fill up with as much hookers and gin as they wanted.

That smacks of irresponsible lending. Pressing a few buttons drunkenly could leave folk with a financial hangover they couldn't afford.

Anyone borrowing £1,000 would have to repay £290 in interest if they repay the lot within 30 days. If they forget to repay the whole amount by then, they would owe £1,580.

That could be a very steep bill for responding drunkenly to a late-night text. And it's this kind of unscrupulous and unacceptable behaviour that has led to the growing clamour for a clampdown on the payday vultures.

The Office of Fair Trading reports later this month on the sector. It must act to put rogue lenders out of business.

Twitter: @simonnread

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