An interactive online film that highlights the dangers of loan sharks on social media has been launched by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).
The new film called ‘SHARK’ will be available to all secondary schools, colleges and universities in England as part of a drive to educate young people about the risks associated with borrowing from loan sharks on social media.
The film has been funded from cash recovered from loan sharks under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
SHARK follows Liam’s story as he desperately tries to find money to pay back his friend who has taken out a phone contract for him.
After confiding in a separate friend about his financial problems, Liam is introduced to a loan shark on Snapchat who is well-known for lending money to students.
The film puts viewers in the shoes of the main character, allowing them to make choices on his behalf and decide what happens next.
The scenarios presented in the film are designed to highlight the risks faced by young people on social media and the consequences that can occur when borrowing from illegal money lenders. The situations are based on real-life experiences of victims of loan sharks.
Local actors star in the film, which was written and produced by Perception Theatre, an applied theatre and interactive film company based in Liverpool.
Joe Roberts, Director of Perception Theatre, said: “We were delighted to have secured the funding to produce this interactive film and continue the fantastic work of Stop Loan Sharks.
“Perception’s mission is to deliver raw, gripping and close to the bone applied theatre productions, where we delve into issues such as illegal money lending which causes fear and misery in our communities.
“Through the power of theatre and interactive film, we can emotionally connect and engage with audiences by creating gripping narratives like Liam’s story, driven by realistic characters and scenarios to spark conversation, challenge perceptions and raise awareness.
“We hope this film will serve as an important and engaging tool in educating young people about the risks of using loan sharks and the importance of staying safe online.”
Loan sharks are turning to social media to hook people into a dangerous cycle of debt and charge extortionate interest rates on loans.
The criminals may appear friendly at first but their behaviour can quickly change, with some resorting to intimidation and threats if payments are not made.
The latest statistics from the IMLT show that under 25s are more likely to meet the loan shark on social media than any other age group. This emerging trend suggests that students may be at risk of falling victim to predatory lenders online.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “SHARK is a fantastic resource to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and for young people learning how to recognise the risks and protect themselves online is a life skill they’ll need for years to come.
“When working with victims of this crime, it quickly becomes apparent that very few make the active choice to borrow from an illegal money lender. Liam’s situation is quite common as people are often duped into borrowing from someone they believe is their friend, someone who they think they can trust, someone who doesn’t mention interest or how much they will have to pay back.
“We encourage anyone who has been targeted by loan sharks online, or witnessed anyone else being exploited in this way, to report it to the team so we can intervene to stop the loan shark and provide support to victims.”
Watch SHARK and take part in the interactive film at www.perceptiontheatre.com/shark
If you or someone you know is being affected by loan sharks, call the 24-hour helpline on 0300 555 2222 or use Live Chat available on our website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday to report and access support.