The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) are working in partnership with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Staffordshire Police and Stoke on Trent Citizens Advice Bureau to tackle loan sharks with a week long campaign of activity from 16 – 20 October 2017.
The campaign has come about as agencies want to warn people about the dangers of falling victim to loan sharks in the run up to Christmas. The “bite back” week will help raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders and will signpost victims to the appropriate help and support available through the IMLT.
IMLT Liaise Officers will deliver illegal money lending training to police and council workers during the “bite back” week. The training sessions will inform staff of the key signs to look out for when dealing with vulnerable individuals who may be in the grip of a loan shark.
Local partners will join forces on Wednesday, 18 October to take part in a targeted leaflet drop in the Haregate area of Staffordshire Moorlands. The leaflet drop will help highlight the work that’s being done to tackle illegal money lending and the help and support services available to loan shark victims.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“Illegal money lending is a despicable crime that affects the most vulnerable in our society. We are pleased to be working with our partners to launch a week of action to raise awareness of this crime and the help that’s available to victims.
“If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, we urge you to get in touch with the IMLT on 0300 555 2222. Your call will be handled by a trained officer from the team and all information will be taken anonymously and in confidence.”
Local agencies and councillors will sign a charter pledging a zero tolerance approach to loan sharks in the district on Tuesday, 17 October at Leek Town Council office.
Councillor Mike Bowen, Cabinet Member for Communities at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, said:
“We are pleased to be supporting ‘bite back’ week again this year as it plays a key role in raising awareness of the dangers of illegal money lenders. Loan sharks are not the answer and spell nothing but misery for people who borrow from them, so our strong advice to our residents is – please don’t get bitten.
“Reputable independent organisations, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or Money Advice Service, offer financial advice and we would encourage anyone considering using loan sharks to talk to these organisations first before going down a route they might come to regret.”
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.
Sgt Robert Peacock, part of the Local Neighbourhood Policing Team for Leek, said:
“We are seizing this opportunity to work with our partners to raise awareness of loan sharks and the misery they can bring. Residents who find themselves in difficult financial situations are encouraged to seek help and support through the right channels and not turn to loan sharks.”
There will be a prize draw (£25 Argos voucher) for all those completing a loan shark survey; copies will be available in Haregate Community Centre (46, Queens Drive, Leek, ST13 6DJ) next week. The winner of the competition will be announced on Monday, 23 October.
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