Milton Keynes residents urged to bite back against loan sharks

Cllr Lauren Townsend and Sid the Shark helped raise awareness in Newport Pagnell

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are working in partnership with Milton Keynes Council and Thames Valley Police (TVP) to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks in the city.

The campaign aims to encourage people to avoid using loan sharks and report the crime if they have been a victim.  It also focuses on informing people about the help available if they are struggling with debt and safer ways to borrow money.

The IMLT made two arrests in MK last month on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering.

Continued economic uncertainty during the pandemic, and many people facing redundancy, means loan sharks may look to take advantage of people in a vulnerable position who feel they have nowhere to turn for help.

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “This crime has a devastating impact on people’s lives and we hope that by raising awareness of the problem, residents will be able to spot a loan shark and get help and support if they have been bitten.

“We would always encourage people to report any concerns about illegal money lending they have to us. The helpline is open 24 hours a day and there is lots of useful support information on our website.”

Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Cllr Lauren Townsend said: “Borrowing money from these individuals who seek to exploit people in vulnerable situations can have potentially fatal consequences.  I’d encourage anyone who is struggling with debt or is a victim to get in touch with us as early as possible.

“My thanks go out to council colleagues and partners for the work they’re doing to raise awareness and drive out loan sharks who cause nothing but misery to our residents.”

The IMLT have launched a new smartphone app to make it quicker and easier for people to report loan sharks and access support services.

The Stop Loan Sharks app includes a contact form and phone number to report loan sharks, as well as information to help victims of illegal money lending to get support.

It also offers users advice on the tell-tale signs that someone is a loan shark. These include offering cash loans without any paperwork, charging extortionate interest, use of benefit or bank cards as security, and threatening behaviour or violence to get money.

The IMLT have secured more than 400 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 586 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £83 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 30,000 people.

For more information about Swan Community Bank call 0303 030 0147 or visit their website.

To report a loan shark, call the 24/7 confidential helpline 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or complete a secure form here. Live Chat is available 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

The Stop Loan Sharks App is free to download on both iOS and Android devices from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.