An eye-catching mural has been unveiled at Widnes Market to raise awareness of the dangers of using loan sharks.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) has commissioned MakoDigital Arts and Zap Graffiti to paint the image of a menacing shark as part of a campaign to highlight the perils of using unauthorised money lenders in the run up to Christmas.
The project involved digital art workshops with Halton Lodge, St Michael’s and Widnes Academy pupils creating slogans and artwork to advise people not to use illegal money lenders and where to get help if affected by the crime.
Anne-Marie Atherton, Director of MakoDigital Arts CIC said: “This was such an exciting project for MakoDigital Arts CIC to be involved in. It was great to work with local school children to highlight the dangers of illegal money lenders and the children worked hard to create some amazing designs which were incorporated into the final mural.
“The project attracted a great deal of attention at Widnes Market, with so many people talking to us about loan sharks and one person taking the details away for their friend, who is unfortunately embroiled with a loan shark. We are proud of the fact that our project has got local people talking about such a difficult subject.”
Youngsters’ artwork was transformed into a big graffiti piece and painted onto Widnes Market floor in a bid to increase awareness and signpost potential victims to the team.
The design includes the IMLT 24-hour helpline number (0300 555 2222) to report loan sharks.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “This new installation will raise awareness in Widnes of the activities of loan sharks, how they operate and how people can report such activities without the fear of reprisals.
“It’s hugely satisfying to seize the money and assets of convicted loan sharks – including property, cars and valuables – and spend that money on crime prevention projects to make communities safer.
“Our advice to residents in need of financial support would be to turn to Halton Credit Union rather than a loan shark who could take advantage and charge extortionate interest rates.”
A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Loan sharks are unregulated, often give cash loans without any paperwork and charge extortionate interest rates.
The Stop Loan Sharks team work to investigate and prosecute illegal lenders and provide support for borrowers.
If you’ve been affected by a loan shark, or know of loan sharks operating in your area, contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24-hour confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222. You can also text a report to 078600 22116 or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 390 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 480 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £74 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 29,000 people.