Families in the Black Country will be given a little extra help to bite back against the menace of loan sharks during an awareness campaign this week.
Sid the Shark, from the England Illegal Money Lending Team, will be on patrol around West Bromwich, along with partners from Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police, highlighting the dangers of loan sharks and letting people know where they can turn for help. They will also be offering advice about what people can do if they are struggling financially.
On Tuesday (AUG 22), Sid and the team will be out and about in the Grafton Road, Albion Field Drive, New Street North and Lyndon areas from 11am to 1pm. On Wednesday (AUG 23), from 10.30am to 12.30pm, they will be at the Tesco Extra Store in New Square West Bromwich, followed by a walkabout in Dartmouth Park from 1.30pm to 3pm.
On Thursday (AUG 24) they will be at the entertainment area between Kings Square and Queens Square Shopping Centre from 11am to 1pm.
Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “Illegal money lenders operate within communities and often target the most vulnerable people, pretending to be a friendly face when in reality they are ruthless criminals.
“We want to make sure people are aware of the dangers of illegal money lenders and that they know we are here to help them if they have been targeted. If anyone has any information about illegal money lending activity or thinks they might be a victim, we urge them to contact us in confidence.”
Inspector Glynis Tomlinson, who covers the West Bromwich and Wednesbury areas, said: “The Illegal Money Lending Team is a national team that investigates and prosecutes loan sharks. The West Bromwich Neighbourhood Team are pleased to be working with them during this week of activity to give communities information about avoiding loan sharks, who prey on the most vulnerable.’’
Many illegal money lenders are well known within their communities and are often introduced to borrowers through friends or family members. They are unregulated and give loans with no paperwork, charging extortionate interest rates. They often resort to threats, intimidation and even violence if repayments are not made.
Since its launch, the IMLT has supported over 31,000 people and written off over £91 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 410 prosecutions for illegal money lending.
Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending should call the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Picture caption: Sid the Shark who will be out and about in West Bromwich
Issued by Sally-Anne Youll, IMLT press officer. For media enquiries, please email Sally-Anne.Youll@birmingham.gov.uk or call 07840712850.