Winchester City Council has pledged to help foster a zero-tolerance attitude to illegal money lending by signing up to an anti-loan shark charter today (September 17).
The signing was organised in conjunction with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) to raise awareness of the problem and help people in the local community.
Pictured L-R: Sid the Shark, Winchester Mayor Cllr Frank Pearson, Winchester projects co-ordinator Janet Palmer and Glenda the Lenda.
The partnership will raise awareness of illegal money lending, secure prosecutions and work with local organisations in Winchester and the wider District to ensure people in the hands of loan sharks are able to access appropriate advice, affordable credit and other sources of support.
Winchester City Council Leader, Cllr Caroline Horrill said:
“Loan sharks have become an increasing problem across the country, and more awareness needs to be raised to prevent people using them, and also catching and prosecuting them.
“I am delighted that we have become a partner with the IMLT’s campaign, and this will help our staff identify loan sharks operating in the District and help residents report loan sharks to us, so we can work with the authorities to secure prosecutions.”
A loan shark is someone who runs a money-lending business without the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt.
Many loan sharks will resort to bullying tactics, such as intimidation, threats and even violence to enforce repayment.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“Loan sharks target some of the most vulnerable people in our society and so it’s vitally important we work with key organisations to combat illegal money lending in our communities.
“This charter sends a strong message that illegal money lending will not be tolerated in Winchester and individuals caught flouting the law will be prosecuted.
“We urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222 and help us bring these unscrupulous lenders to justice.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 382 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject