Organisations across the Torbay region are being urged to step up their fight against loan sharks in a new drive this week.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team will be working with staff from Citizens Advice, charities, councils, housing groups and other organisations to raise awareness and help them spot the early signs of loan sharks operating in the region.
They will be urged to ask a few simple extra questions to find out if people may have fallen victim to an illegal money lender.
Tony Quigley, head of the England IMLT, said: “We are asking agencies to engage in conversations with anyone who mentions they have money worries or debts and ask, ‘are you in this situation because you owe money to someone and having to pay them back?’
“By asking a few simple questions they can establish if someone is in the clutches of an illegal money lender and then they can be offered support.
“We want anyone who thinks they have been targeted by an illegal lender to know that they have done nothing wrong, it is the lender who is acting illegally.
“They might think the lender is a friend doing them a favour, but the truth is they are ruthless criminals seeking to profit from the vulnerable. Anyone who has any information about these illegal lenders can contact our team in complete confidence for help and advice on what to do next.”
The IMLT can be contacted in a number of ways. People can call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 222; text a report to 078600 22116 or send a private message on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject.
They can also visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk where there is a live chat facility from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.