A website’s been set up which manages to drop payday loan (super high-cost, short-term lending) marketing down a notch. It’s as if those behind it saw others scraping the bottom of the barrel and just thought: "No problem, we’ll lick it up."
The site’s been set up to attract people looking for official government crisis loans from the social fund. I was alerted to this on Twitter by payday loan campaigning MP Stella Creasy.
I’m not going to link to the site, as that risks helping boost its search rank, but instead here’s a screen grab…(click to see a larger version)
For those who don’t know, the Social Fund is available from Jobcentres. It offers 0% crisis or budgeting loans for those in real need for help. While the system is far from perfect, it is one of the few decent options to avoid high cost short-term lending. See the Debt Problems Help guide for more info.
The problem with this site is it dresses itself up to act like it’s some type of official info. As proof, when I retweeted Stella Creasy’s message (having then only had a cursory glance), saying:
"Despicable! how do these people sleep ‘@stellacreasy: Hey @MartinSLewis seen this new low from a legal loan shark?’"
Even within that context, people looked at the link and replied believing it was official. Someone said:
"Surely the real scandal is that this is recommended by DSS Social fund??"
The site, of course, has the small legal disclaimer, "not the DWP" at the top right, but then why does it call itself "the social fund"?
In fact, after a slightly longer look, I don’t think this is a payday lender’s site. I think it’s a search engine optimisation (SEO) site, built by someone who then uses off-the-peg affiliate links (paying links) from payday lenders to make money.
When building a website, you use terms and URLs that you want to appear high in search rankings. Just take a look at the homepage of the site – it’s optimising terms such as "social fund", "budgeting loans" and "crisis loans".
In other words, its aim is that when people search for those official loans, it wants to subvert them to coming to it, so it can then flog them payday loans. While it does at least link in places to the crisis fund hotline, even the links on its page to things like "Social Fund Telephone" never seen to take you away (I haven’t checked them all). They just bounce you around its site.
Update Note: The site has now been taken offline, it seems very likely that this is due to the social media reaction – glad to see it.