The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is working with Cannock Chase District Council, Fusion Credit Union and Staffordshire Police to deliver a new campaign to raise awareness of loan sharks.
The ‘bite back’ campaign, running until June 29, involves a targeted leaflet drop, staff training, awareness work with tenants and an online survey.
Officers from the IMLT and Cannock Chase Local Policing Team took part in a targeted leaflet drop in Chadsmoor on Monday to show residents the work being done and point to the help if needed.
Duncan Rollo, Partnerships Manager at Cannock Chase Local Policing Team, said: “Cannock Chase LPT welcome the opportunity to work alongside our colleagues from the Illegal Money Lending Team. This insidious activity causes huge amounts of distress for individuals and ruins communities. Loan sharks exploit the vulnerability of those in financial hardship, whilst claiming to be a way out of debt. We encourage members of the public to contact the IMLT in complete confidence and identify loan sharks operating in their communities.’’
Other work has included loan shark information being added to rent statements, warning tenants of the dangers and what to do if they owe money to an illegal lender.
Council employees and frontline workers are also being trained on how to support victims of loan sharks and make referrals to the IMLT when dealing with vulnerable clients.
Councillor Carl Bennett, Portfolio Leader for Crime and Partnerships at Cannock Chase Council said: “We are pleased to support the Illegal Money Lending Team again this year and raise awareness of loan sharks in the District. It is an appalling crime and we hope to highlight this issue during the week of action and educate residents of the safer alternatives to borrowing money. I hope the prize draw encourages residents in Cannock Chase to come forward and get help.”
A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders who charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, added: “It is important that local people are made aware of the dangers posed by illegal money lenders. This campaign is about raising awareness of how not to fall prey to loan sharks and promoting the alternative options available for borrowing and saving money in a safe way.
“We remind residents that these loan sharks may appear friendly at first, and make out that they’re offering a community service but borrowers are often forced to pay back far more than they have borrowed and can afford. Many victims are subjected to threats, violence and other callous settlement methods.
“We urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222, as we can help bring them to justice.”
The IMLT is asking residents to complete a survey about loan sharks in Cannock Chase. Every person that completes the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win £40 in shopping vouchers.
Money confiscated from convicted loan sharks will also be used to back new credit union accounts in Cannock.
The IMLT has joined forces with Fusion Credit Union to use proceeds of crime money as an incentive to encourage people in Cannock to save, and to raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.
The first 50 people to join Fusion Credit Union, located at the Civic Centre on Beecroft Road, and who save a minimum of £1 per week for 13 weeks will qualify for a savings boost of £25.
For more information on how to become a member of Fusion Credit Union, call 01543 415032 or email email@example.com.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 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