A CITY-WIDE campaign has been launched in Stoke-on-Trent to warn residents against borrowing from loan sharks and encourage those who have already fallen victim to illegal money lending to come forward and report.
The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a specialist unit that investigate and prosecute loan sharks – have teamed up with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to host a series of training sessions and activities to bite back against unauthorised money lenders.
The ‘bite back’ campaign, running until Friday (2 Feb), aims to highlight the dangers of using loan sharks to residents and signpost victims to the appropriate help and support available through the IMLT.
Debt advocates and council workers will be trained on the key things to look out for when dealing with loan shark victims at a session at Tunstall Local Centre, on Tuesday (30 Jan).
An information leaflet drop is also scheduled for Thursday (1 Feb) with properties in the Meir suburb being targeted. IMLT officers will be speaking to residents to try and generate intelligence about suspected illegal money lending in the area.
Work will also include local pubs in Fenton and Meir putting out loan shark beer mats with advice and information on for customers’ knowledge on how to report illegal money lenders.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable communities and fleece their victims out of hard earned cash, often through intimidation and violence.
“Residents who find themselves in difficult financial situations are encouraged not to use loan sharks, but seek help and support from Stoke-on-Trent Citizens’ Advice Bureau. If you are in the clutches of a loan shark, we urge you seek help by calling our 24/7 hotline on 0300 555 2222 or visiting the website www.stoploansharks.uk. All information is treated in the strictest confidence and we will provide you with a professional welfare officer to support you while we build a case against the loan shark.”
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.
The campaign has come about after a 70 year-old man was arrested in Joiner’s Square on 8 November 2017.
A Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesperson said:
“We are working alongside the Illegal Money Lending Team to help protect residents from unauthorised money lenders who are notorious for exploiting people when they are most desperate in order to profit from their situation.
“The City Council is determined to crack down on loan sharks in our communities. We urge anyone aware of illegal money lending issues to come forward and report to the IMLT.”
Have you or someone you know fallen victim to illegal money lending?
A loan shark might…
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 328 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £72.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 27,000 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