LOAN sharks were the main topic of discussion at an awareness event in Stockport earlier this week (Monday 6 November).
Local agencies gathered at Dialstone Lane Methodist Church to discuss plans for a campaign to combat illegal money lending in the town.
The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national team that investigate and prosecute loan sharks – worked with Stockport Credit Union to host the event.
An IMLT support officer gave attendees guidance on how to spot a loan shark and support a client who may be in the grip of an illegal money lender.
Christmas is a peak time for illegal money lending; loan sharks are swimming around communities, looking for the next vulnerable person to prey on.
The event attracted 37 guests from 28 different local agencies that deal with vulnerable people on a regular basis. Attendees learnt about the tactics used by loan sharks and the help and support available to victims through the services of the Illegal Money Lending Team.
Pictured: Attendees hear about the services Stockport Credit Union can offer residents to prevent them falling victim to loan sharks
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“It is important that Stockport agencies work together to protect communities from illegal money lenders. We are urging residents to take the “check before you borrow” approach in a bid to prevent more people from falling victim to loan sharks.
“Illegal money lending is a despicable crime that affects the most vulnerable in our society. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, we urge you to seek help by contacting us on 0300 555 2222. Calls are answered 24 hours a day and all information is treated in the strictest confidence.”
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.
In July 2016, loan shark Thomas Johnson from Brinnington was jailed for 33 months after pleading guilty to illegal money lending and money laundering offences. Johnson had around 100 customers and was charging victims a staggering APR rate of 4.5 million per cent on loans. Johnson’s victims would have their loan balance doubled if a payment was missed; some were even issued with threats of violence for non-repayment.
Julie Abbott, Manager of Stockport Credit Union, said:
“Stockport Credit Union provides secure savings and affordable loans to people who live or work in the Stockport borough. Our aim is to help people grow their savings so they become more resilient, and to manage their money. We urge residents to always check before they borrow to ensure they are only borrowing from legitimate lenders who are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.”
For information on how to become a member of Stockport Credit Union, call 0161 430 5808 or email email@example.com
Daniel Oliver, a local resident from Offerton who helped organise the event, said:
“We received a great response to the loan shark awareness session. We are now working with local agencies to create an action plan to tackle this horrendous crime in the Stockport borough. Loan sharks are immoral criminals who are not welcome in our town – we will do all it takes to protect our community.”
People are urged never to use loan sharks who may refuse to tell the borrower how much they owe, how long they will be repaying for or the interest rate they will be charged. Often they do not give paperwork and loans will just keep growing even if the borrower is making regular payments. These criminals may appear friendly at first, but can resort to violence, threats and intimidation if payments are not met.
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