An eye-catching mural has brightened up a city street to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and signpost people to support.
Citizens Advice Peterborough commissioned Blank Walls to paint a mural of a shark at their office on St Mark’s Street to highlight the risks of using illegal money lenders.
The artwork project was commissioned by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) using £2,500 of money which had been confiscated from loan sharks following successful prosecutions.
The colourful design, which features warning messages about illegal money lending, aims to serve as a reminder to residents about the dangers of loan sharks.
The mural features the 24-hour helpline number 0300 555 2222 and website www.stoploansharks.co.uk for people to report loan sharks and access specialist support.
A loan shark is someone who lends money as a business without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Loan sharks are unregulated money lenders that prey on vulnerable people and charge extremely high interest rates. They often resort to using harassment, intimidation, threats and violence to pressure people into paying back loans.
Keith Jones, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice in Peterborough: “Illegal money lending is a growing problem especially in the challenging times we are currently experiencing where people are struggling to meet bills and buy food.
“Our aim is to ensure that people are aware that loan sharks are not the answer and will only increase the problems and stress they are facing. We would urge people who owe money to illegal lenders to contact Citizens Advice or the IMLT for help.”
Staff at Citizens Advice Peterborough have received specialist training on how to identify someone at risk or subject to illegal money lending and how to help them.
The IMLT is a specialist enforcement unit that investigates and prosecutes illegal money lenders and provides support for borrowers.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England IMLT said: “We work closely with our partners, statutory and voluntary, to ensure victims get the help they deserve, to highlight the issue of illegal money lending and to explore ways in which we can keep communities safer.
“This striking mural has really made an impression on people in Peterborough and sparked conversations about illegal money lending. We urge anyone affected by this crime to come forward and access support as soon as possible.”
How to spot the signs of loan sharks:
· Won’t provide you with receipts or proof of payments
· Increase the debt or add additional amounts to it without your permission
· Refuse to give information, such as the interest rate or how much you still owe
· Not allow you to settle your debt
· They may resort to intimidation, threats or violence
· May suggest other forms of payment
Anyone who has concerns about loan sharks can access advice and support on the 24-hour Stop Loan Sharks Helpline on 0300 555 2222 or online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Citizens Advice Peterborough offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice and information on a wide range of subjects. For more information call the Advice Line on 0808 278 7850 or visit www.citapeterborough.org.uk