Two people were arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering offences after an operation in Hemel Hempstead this week.
Officers from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and Hertfordshire Constabulary executed a search warrant at an address in the town on Tuesday, May 10.
Documentation and electronic devices were recovered during a search of the property.
A 35-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man were taken into custody for questioning. They have since been released under investigation pending further enquiries.
The IMLT works in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council Trading Standards and Hertfordshire Constabulary to investigate and prosecute loan sharks.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We are determined to warn residents about the dangers of loan sharks, and we will work with partners to take action against them.
“Loan sharks are criminals that prey on the most vulnerable people in our communities. They trap their victims into spiralling debt and will often use intimidation and violence.
“We will not tolerate these activities in Hertfordshire and would urge anyone with information about loan sharks to report them as soon as possible.”
Mike MacGregor, Community Protection Manager at Hertfordshire County Council Trading Standards, said: “We know that increases in the cost of living are putting pressure on household finances, but we would actively encourage residents to use reputable sources of finance to avoid becoming prey to loan sharks. There are a number of credit unions in Hertfordshire that offer access to low cost and reputable loans, for example the Dacorum First Credit Union based in Hemel Hempstead.”
A recent report published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Swimming with Sharks, estimated 1.08 million people may currently owe money to loan sharks, with some lenders demanding sexual favours as repayment from borrowers.
Warning signs to indicate that you could be dealing with a loan shark include giving no paperwork upon the agreement of a loan, refusing to give detailed information about a loan, intimidation and threats, taking items such as a bank card or passport until the debt is paid, and taking things from you if you do not pay on time.
Local residents, charities, community and voluntary groups, schools and statutory agencies can apply for grants of up to £5,000 for activities that highlight the dangers of loan sharks.
The Stop Loan Sharks Community Fund is made available from money seized from convicted loan sharks under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). Organisations will need to demonstrate the positive impact their project would have on their community and how it will help tackle loan sharks.
Find out more about the grants and download an application form here.
The closing date for applications is Thursday, 30th June 2022.
If you or someone you know is involved with a loan shark, call the 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or use our online reporting form here.
Live chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Just click the chat box in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to get connected to our expert support team.