News item

Dangers of loan sharks highlighted in Dorset campaign

The England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with Dorset County Council and a range of local partners are to launch a week long campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

Through the campaign, which follows on from a launch event in December, they aim to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim.

During the campaign, which launches on Monday 11th February, Trading Standards Officers will deliver posters, leaflets and beermats with the 0300 555 2222 hotline number for reporting loan sharks to pubs and other venues throughout Dorset.  Training and awareness sessions on the issue will be held for staff in the Dorset Safer Neighbourhood Team and in Dorset County Council’s Adult and Community Services.

The sessions will enable the staff to spot illegal money lending activity and be in a position to support and signpost any clients they come across in their day to day work who have been a victim of a loan shark.

First Dorset Credit Union will be supporting the campaign and providing a safe and legal alternative to those tempted by loan sharks. In an initiative funded with proceeds of crime money taken from convicted loan sharks, the first 25 people to open a new account and save for 12 weeks will receive a £30 bonus. To join up visit the Credit Union bringing one proof of ID and one proof of address.

There are currently an estimated 310,000 households across the country in debt to a loan shark.

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 and callous methods to enforce repayment including threats, violence and intimidation.

Paperwork is rarely offered so victims are often in the dark as to how much they are actually paying.  Exorbitant extra amounts and interest are added at random- the highest interest seen by an illegal lender was equivalent to 131,000% APR. In some cases the loan sharks have been known to take items as security including passports, driving licences or even bank or post office cards with the PIN in order to withdraw directly from borrowers’ accounts.

Ivan Hancock, Trading Standards Service Manager for Dorset County Council said:
“When this initiative was launched in Dorset in December we were grateful for the helpful input from local groups and other regulators. This has enabled the Illegal Money Lending Team to effectively plan action in the County to raise awareness of this issue and give vulnerable people somewhere to turn if targeted. I hope this very timely week of action can put a spotlight on any problem areas.”

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities. These lenders may appear to be offering a community service but borrowers are often forced to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford. Many are subjected to threats, violence or other callous enforcement methods. We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222, as we can help”

Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

To contact First Dorset Credit Union:

Visit 42 High East Street
Dorchester
DT1 1HN
Call 01305 268444
Email admin@fdcu.org.uk

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For more information contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430.

Notes to editors

The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) represents all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as SCAMBUSTERS, the Illegal Money Lending Team and the e-Crime Unit.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.

Funded by the National Trading Standards Board, the Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams; England, Scotland and Wales. Hosted by Birmingham City Council and working in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities up and down the country, the England Team consists of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders. The project piloted in 2004, and expanded in 2007.

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