Sharky tours Telford to crackdown on illegal money lending

SHARKY will be touring Telford next week as part of a pre-Christmas campaign to crack down on illegal money lending.

The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have teamed up with Citizens Advice Telford and Telford & Wrekin Council to launch the campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of using loan sharks in the lead up to the festive period.

IMLT mascot “Sharky” will be on tour from Monday (27 November) to Friday (1 December) to speak to residents about illegal money lending and promote the help and support available to loan shark victims.

Sharky will be at a different venue each day between 10am-4pm:

Monday 27 November: Telford Jobcentre Plus, Telford House, Southwater Way, TF3 4PD

Tuesday 28 November: Telford Foodbank, Leegomery Community Centre, TF1 6NA and Apley area (TF1 6FQ)

Wednesday 29 November: Asda Telford Superstore, Malinsgate, TF3 4HZ

Thursday 30 November: Branches, Strickland House, The Lawns, Wellington

Friday 1 December: Meeting Point House, near the European Christmas Market

The campaign has come about after a 40 year-old Telford man was arrested on suspicion of being a loan shark on 9 November.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:

“Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities. These lenders may appear to be offering a community service but borrowers are often forced to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford. Many victims are subjected to threats, violence and other callous enforcement methods. We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk

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.

Valerie Graham, Manager at Citizens Advice Telford, said:

“Citizens Advice Telford provides free, confidential, independent and impartial help on a range of issues. We work closely with the IMLT to support clients who have been affected by loan sharks.

“Sharky like any superhero is on a mission to fight crime, protect the public and put an end to illegal money lending in this town. It is imperative we work with authorities to combat this sort of crime which affects the most vulnerable. If you are experiencing debt issues, please come along to one of our drop-in sessions and speak to an advisor.”

Christmas is a prime time for loan sharks; these lenders are swimming about on estates, looking for the next vulnerable family to target. Loan sharks often prey on those who would struggle to access credit through legitimate sources.

Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for enforcement said:

“It is important that people are not duped into borrowing money from illegal lenders and that’s why we are helping to highlight the issue. Borrowing from loan sharks can lead to a great deal of fear and distress for the borrowers and their families. I would encourage anyone wanting advice or support to come and see Sharky.”

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

E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject