Confiscated loan shark cash gives boost to Wolverhampton savers

Wolverhampton people signing up for a credit union savings scheme are being offered a cash boost thanks to money confiscated from loan sharks.

People who sign up and start saving with Wolverhampton City Credit Union will get a £25 boost to their savings pot if they meet the required criteria thanks to a partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).

Dave Benbow, Tameka Spencer and Tom McNeil

West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil was at the credit union this week to help launch the scheme and see the work that the IMLT and credit union are doing to help spot the signs of a loan shark and keep people safe.

Mr McNeil said: “The cost of living crisis means even more people who are struggling financially are falling victim to loan sharks and illegal money lenders. This can involve excessive interest rates, intimidation and even violence.

“That’s why we’re determined to keep working with credit unions and law enforcement agencies to raise awareness of ethical lenders and savings providers, who help prevent this form of exploitation.”

Tameka Spencer, CEO of Wolverhampton City Credit Union, said: “As a Credit Union we urge our members and the general public to stay vigilant against loan sharks. Their financial wellbeing is our priority. As a co-operative we offer ethical and fair savings and lending solutions, empowering our members to overcome financial challenges without falling prey to predatory practices. Let’s build a stronger, safer community together by saying no to loan sharks. We started the year with our new marketing campaign “Save More in 2024” this is to encourage members to save as little or as much as possible for a rainy day.

“We are delighted once again to be partnering with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to offer an incentive to new members. We are not always able to lend to a customer and it is not always the best solution, however we would signpost to the relevant agencies. Being a co-operative, we welcome all customers regardless of their financial circumstances we look at each application on its own merit.”

Dave Benbow, operations manager at the IMLT, said: “Illegal lenders prey on the most financially vulnerable and we work hard with our partners to make sure we protect those at risk.

“Credit unions offer a safe, ethical way of borrowing for those who may have struggled to access credit through the mainstream banks and we would urge people to consider them if they need to borrow. We also want to encourage as many people as possible to save as this will improve their financial resilience and help to keep them safe in the future.

“Incentive schemes like this are one way we can put the money confiscated from loan sharks to good use and encourage people to join a credit union.”

To qualify for the incentive, recipients must be a new member of Wolverhampton City Credit Union and must meet the common bond of living, working, volunteering, or studying within a WV postcode area. They must save a minimum of £5 a month into regular savings account for six months. The incentive is available to the first 50 members who apply and who must quote SLS.

Illegal money lenders are those who lend money and charge interest without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority. They may offer what appears to be a quick-fix loan but then charge extortionate interest rates and can resort to threats and violence if the borrower struggles to make repayments.

Warning signs that someone is an illegal lender include: Being given no paperwork or information about the loan; being asked to hand over items like passport or bank cards until the loan is repaid; having increasing amounts of interest or other charges imposed and being threatened or intimidated if you don’t pay.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the IMLT. In the past two decades, it has supported over 31,500 people and written off over £91.2 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 416 prosecutions for illegal money lending, leading to 598 years in jail.

Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending can call the Stop Loan Sharks 24-Hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or speak to an officer via Live Chat, available 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday on the website stoploansharks.co.uk.