Organisations across the city are teaming up to pledge a zero-tolerance stance on loan sharks.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and Black Country Charity, Transforming Communities Together, have brought together a range of local groups to sign an anti-loan shark charter to stop unscrupulous lenders taking advantage of vulnerable people.
The charter was launched at an event by the IMLT, which provided an opportunity for organisations such as Black Country DWP, City of Wolverhampton Council, Citizens Advice, Diocese of Lichfield, Just Finance Foundation, St Peter’s Collegiate Church, Wolverhampton City Credit Union and Wolverhampton Homes to find out more about the issue and spot illegal money lending in communities.
It is now hoped the charter will start a conversation about loan sharks in a bid to reach those who are at risk.
Tony Quigley, head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said:
“Loan sharks devastate the most vulnerable people in our communities and so it’s vitally important we work with key organisations to combat illegal money lending. We also have a team of dedicated officers who can help those caught in the hands of a loan shark.”
The IMLT is also training frontline staff on what signs to look out for and how to recognise the symptoms and effects of illegal money lending when dealing with customers.
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.
John Denley, Director of Public Health, said that he supports the campaign to crackdown on loan sharks:
“Loan sharks exploit our most vulnerable and desperate residents. Their pressure tactics and the extortionate interest they charge can have a major impact on people’s mental health causing huge stress and anxiety. Anyone who needs to borrow money should contact a safe and responsible lender such as Wolverhampton City Credit Union – a not-for-profit community bank owned and run by its members. The credit union has offices on Worcester Street in Wolverhampton City Centre and the website is www.wccul.co.uk.”
Loan sharks operate illegally, without the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority. These criminals usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt. As the debts can’t legally be enforced, many lenders will resort to the most extreme methods to collect money from victims.
The Bishop of Wolverhampton, the Right Revd Clive Gregory said that he welcomed the initiative:
“I am so pleased that as a Diocese we are involved with this campaign. People turn to loan sharks when they are desperate, not realising the trap door and terrible sense of isolation that await them. It is only by standing in partnership across our city that we can combat this misery that undermines our communities and offer life-giving alternatives to those among us who are crippled by debt.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 382 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 330 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £74 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
To report loan shark activity call the 24 hour confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 or visit stoploansharks.co.uk.