Campaign bites back against loan sharks in Sandwell

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is working in partnership with Sandwell Council and Riverside Housing to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

A week of action is being held in the borough from Monday, 16 August, to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and access support if they have been affected by this crime, as well as offering advice on alternative lending options.

During the week of activity, officers from the IMLT will take part in a targeted leaflet drop on the Harvills and Millfields estates to speak to residents about illegal money lending and provide real alternatives and assistance if they are struggling financially.

There will also be an information stall at Ratcliffe Park on Thursday 19 August between 10am and 2pm offering crime prevention and safety advice about avoiding loan sharks. The IMLT national mascot, Sid the Shark, will be in attendance for photo opportunities and to help raise awareness of the issue.

A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Loan sharks are unregulated, often give cash loans without any paperwork and charge extortionate interest rates. In most cases, victims are introduced to the lender either through a friend, family member or because they are known in the community.

They may offer what appears to be a quick-fix small loan but in the long term, any money borrowed will come at a very high price and may lead to violence, threats and intimidation.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal money lending causes great misery to people once they get caught up in the cycle.

“It can lead to harassment, intimidation and threats, and it’s known that these unscrupulous lenders take borrowers personal items as security and extort payments by other means.

“The focus for the campaign is helping people to stay safe, ensuring they know what the risks are with loan sharks, what alternatives there are for managing their finances, and how they can avoid being exploited.

“Please don’t feel embarrassed or suffer in silence if you have been affected by loan sharks. Our helpline is available 24/7 on 0300 555 2222 and you can access support via live chat on our website.”

Sandwell Council alongside a number of voluntary sector partners signed up to the Stop Loan Sharks Charter back in 2019 in a bid to protect people from unscrupulous lenders.

Under the agreement, partner organisations in Sandwell will work to increase awareness of illegal money lending and encourage people to steer clear of loan sharks who will exploit and extort from their borrowers.

Councillor Rajbir Singh, Leader of Sandwell Council said: “Loan sharks prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable, which is why I and Sandwell Council completely support this campaign by the England Illegal Money Lending Team and why we signed up to the Stop Loan Shark Charter in 2019.  I would encourage everyone to find out more so that they know where to get help and support and how to recognise loan sharks.

“While they may initially seem to victims to be the only people ready to help, it’s important that we call out loan sharks for who they really are, unscrupulous criminals who take advantage of people when they at their most desperate.”

Residents are being urged to lookout for the tell-tale signs when dealing with loan sharks:

  • They refuse to provide you with proper paperwork about your loan – you’re never sure what you owe, or the interest being charged.
  • They refuse to give you information, such as the time left on the loan, or what you’ve repaid so far.
  • They keep adding unfair amounts of interest to the amount you owe so it never goes down.
  • If you miss payments, they’ll use scare tactics such as intimidation and threats to pressure you into paying them.
  • They may take your things if you don’t pay what they want on time.
  • They may withhold your possessions such as your bank card or passport until the debt is repaid.
  • They may pretend to be your friend at first but threaten to tell others about the debt if you fail to pay back money on time.

Denise Heginbotham, Community Engagement Officer, from Riverside Housing said: “Months of isolation has led many to let their guard down, online shopping has become the norm, now that restrictions are becoming more relaxed, illegal money lenders will look to take advantage of this opportunity and we want to make our residents aware so that they don’t get caught out. We are working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to raise awareness and support people who may be affected”

Loan sharks will never stop chasing you for money, so it’s important you take action as soon as possible.

If you’ve been affected by illegal money lending and need support, call the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222. You can also contact the team via Live Chat for specialist advice and help at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.  

Year round help from Sandwell Advice Providers Network – information on Resilient Residents is available at www.sandwell.gov.uk/resilientresidents