“SHARK PROOF” security screens are set to appear on vacant council properties across Birmingham in a bid to warn tenants about the dangers of using loan sharks.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national team hosted by Birmingham City Council – work with local authorities and police forces across the country to investigate and prosecute loan sharks.
The team have been working with Birmingham City Council’s housing service and Birmingham’s Financial Inclusion Partnership to design fifty security screens to go on empty council properties. The purpose of the project is to prevent tenants from turning to loan sharks to borrow money and signpost victims to the appropriate help and support available.
Birmingham City Council contractors Fortem and VPS will install the security screens on the void properties.
Local agencies and contractors attended an unoccupied block of flats in Kings Norton yesterday (July 27) to see the first security screen being installed.
Pictured L-R: Karen Markall (Chair of the Birmingham Financial Inclusion Partnership), Ron Lees (Chair of HLB Kings Norton), Tracey Radford (Head of Landlord Services at Birmingham City Council), John Jamieson (Head of Contractor Services at Birmingham City Council), Melanie Checkley (Regional Community Partner at Fortem) and Tony Quigley (Head of Service for the England Illegal Money Lending Team)
The security screens contain helpful contact information for the Illegal Money Lending Team – including the team’s 24 hour hotline number (0300 555 2222) and website address (www.stoploansharks.uk) which victims can contact the IMLT on to report a loan shark.
Councillor Barbara Dring, Chairman of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee at Birmingham City Council, which oversees the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“Loan sharks will not be tolerated in our city – the introduction of anti-loan shark security screens will help reinforce this message to local estates. Loan sharks exploit vulnerable people for their own greed but the England Illegal Money Lending Team are continuing to bring offenders to justice and stamp out this awful crime.
A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Loan sharks often target low-income and desperate families; preying on struggling individuals and exploiting them for personal financial gain.
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.
The anti-loan shark security screens have been funded using proceeds of crime money; cash confiscated from convicted loan sharks, following successful prosecutions.
Pictured: The first Stop Loan Sharks security screen installed on a block of unoccupied flats in Kings Norton
The project follows the launch of the Birmingham Financial Inclusion Partnership strategy which aims to warn more residents about illegal money lenders and the impact of high risk borrowing.
Melanie Checkley, Regional Community Partner at Fortem, said:
“When Fortem and VPS were asked by the IMLT to work in partnership on this project – we were more than delighted to help. It is so important that we work together to ensure that our communities are warned about the dangers of borrowing money from loan sharks. When we were asked to support this initiative we were more than happy to help. Improving our communities and the areas that our residents live in is at the heart of everything that we do.”
Tracey Radford, Head of Landlord Services at Birmingham City Council, said:
“Birmingham City Council Housing Services are keen to support the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team and the Financial Inclusion Partnership by displaying this key message within our local communities. It is important that our tenants are made aware of loan sharks and how to report any suspected activity. By putting the Stop Loan Sharks posters on the security screens, this is an excellent way of raising awareness of this issue around the city as properties become void.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 378 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 325 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £71.9 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 26,500 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