Action week to keep Evesham people safe from loan sharks

The fight against loan sharks will hit the streets of Evesham this month (APRIL) with a week of awareness-raising action.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is organising the Bite Back Week next week in partnership with Rooftop Housing Group.

The aim is to raise awareness about the dangers of illegal money lenders and the alternatives available.

On Monday, April 29, IMLT mascot Sid the Shark will be in Evesham High Street handing out leaflets, from 10.30am to 2pm. The following day, Sid will be in Port Street, also from 10.30am to 2pm.

On Thursday, May 2, there will be an information stall and walkabout near the Spar in Pershore Road, Hampton, from 11am to 12.30pm.

On the same day, between 1pm and 2.15pm, there will be an information stall near the Fairfield Pub in Battleton Road, Fairfield, and from 2pm to 3.30pm the team will be handing out leaflets near Hampton Village School.

Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, also known as Stop Loan Sharks, said: “Often illegal lenders are well known in communities and are often introduced to borrowers through friends or family members.

“If someone has struggled to access credit through mainstream channels they may feel they have no other option to borrow money.

“This is where the illegal lenders come in, preying on people when they are at their most vulnerable. It may start off as a small loan, but borrowers often end up trapped in a cycle of never-ending debt.

“We want people to be fully aware of the signs of an illegal lender and the other options they have for accessing credit safely, such as credit unions.

“If anyone thinks they may have been targeted by an illegal lender, there is help available. We realise it can be difficult to take the first step, but I would urge anyone in this position to get in touch with us as soon as they can for specialist advice and support.”

Boris Worrall, group chief executive of Rooftop Housing Group, said, “Loan sharks have a real impact on local people and communities, not just in terms of making household debts worse, but also the wider health and well-being effect on parents, children and individuals who are facing financial hardship.   

“At Rooftop, we are here for our customers and understand that many face challenges. That’s why our Money Advisors are on hand to help. We provided advice to 100 customers every month last year (April 2023 to the end of March 2024), helping them to get the extra benefits or support that they are entitled to, or supplying support through vouchers. Where customers do have challenges, please contact us as soon as you can – we will listen, help and work with you.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the IMLT. Since its launch, it has supported more than 31,500 people and written off more than £91.2 million worth of illegal debt, securing more than 418 prosecutions for illegal money lending.

Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending should call the confidential Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 hotline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.