The England Illegal Money Lending Team and Cheshire Police have undertaken a week of action to tackle loan sharks in Runcorn.
The aim of the partnership operation was to warn residents about the pitfalls and dangers of illegal money lending and provide them with the help and support they require.
Police Constable Ian Hampson said: “With Christmas fast approaching now is often the time when people find their finances most stretched – meaning it is also the time when loan sharks are most likely to strike.
“While the thought of some extra cash might sound good, borrowing money from an illegal money lender can be extremely dangerous.
“These people have no thought for their victims. They are criminals who prey on some of the most vulnerable members of the community and often make threats and use violence in order to enforce payments, which is why we are keen to warn residents about the dangers.”
Throughout the week of action officers from Cheshire Police, Onward Housing and Riverside Housing hosted a number of engagement events across Runcorn, providing residents with advice and support to help stop them from falling victim to illegal money lenders.
The events were hosted in partnership with a number of local agencies, including the Illegal Money Lending Team, Halton Credit Union , Halton Trading Standards and local schools and MPs.
Tony Quigley, Head of Service for the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We’re pleased to be running this awareness campaign with support from our Cheshire partners.
“People so often feel the pressure to spend more than they can afford on Christmas. It’s important that residents stay away from loan sharks and only borrow from responsible lenders such as a credit union.
“We urge victims of loan sharks to contact us in confidence on 0300 555 2222 and help us bring unscrupulous lenders to justice.”
The week of action was part of PC Hampson and Police Community Support Officer Georgie Griffiths’ ongoing operation targeting loan sharks.
“As well as supporting residents, we’ve also been able to gather intelligence from the community, helping us to have a better understanding of illegal money lending in the area.
“We hope that we’ll now be able to use this intelligence to directly target the unscrupulous loan sharks who are operating in Runcorn.”
As part of the operation Cheshire Police and the England Illegal Money Lending Team are currently running a ‘Spot the Shark’ competition on Facebook which is open to anyone who lives in the Runcorn area.
Anyone looking to take park in the competition should visit the Stop Loan Sharks Facebook page for more details.
Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of an illegal money lender is urged to contact the Stop Loan Sharks national hotline on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk.