A week-long ‘bite back’ campaign is underway warning residents of the dangers of loan sharks.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are working alongside Wyre Forest District Council, The Community Housing Group, Safer Wyre Forest and West Mercia Police to encourage people to avoid getting involved with loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim.
Throughout the week a series of activities have taken place encouraging residents to receive help and support if they are in debt, while finding out more about why loan sharks should always be avoided.
Ray Brookes, Group Chief Executive for The Community Housing Group said: “We are really pleased to be part of this important campaign as we know that loan sharks are operating in communities and exploiting people who think that they are an easy way to get out of their financial problems. However, they are not helping and they will only make matters worse. We would encourage residents to come and talk to us and find out about the many organisations who can help them if they are in debt or need to raise funds.”
Frontline workers have also been trained on the signs to look out for and how to recognise the symptoms and effects of illegal money lending when dealing with customers.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team’s mascot ‘Sid the Shark’ has toured primary schools in the district to highlight the perils of loan sharks during the campaign.
Sid the Shark leafleting outside St. Oswald’s CE Primary School
Kathryn Underhill, Chair of Safer Wyre Forest, said: “We are pleased to support the England Money Lending Team Stop Loan Sharks campaign. People’s lives are being ruined by illegal money lenders. By raising awareness of the problem we hope that Wyre Forest residents will be able to spot a Loan Shark and if someone has been bitten by one, where they can go to get help and support.”
Officers have also conducted a leaflet drop in the Rifle Range area this week to show residents the work being done to combat loan sharks and point to the help if needed.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “Loan sharks trap borrowers in a spiral of debt, often resorting to extreme methods of intimidation, threats and violence to enforce repayment.
“By working together, we can help to keep vulnerable members of the community safe and educate them against falling victim to unscrupulous lenders. I urge anyone who has fallen victim to this crime not to suffer in silence, but contact the team for help and support.”
An estimated 310,000 households are borrowing from illegal money lenders and the highest APR seen by a loan shark was 4.5 million per cent.
The lenders may appear friendly at first but will quickly trap borrowers in a spiral of debt.
Some of the tell-tale signs of loan sharking include cash loans without paperwork, use of benefit or bank cards as security and threatening behaviour or violence to get money.
The Illegal Money Lending Team works in partnership with Trading Standards services across England to prosecute loan sharks and to support the people and communities that are affected by them.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 394 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 480 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £74.9 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 29,000 people.
To report a loan shark call the 24/7 confidential hotline at 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk.