Hampshire bites back against loan sharks
The England Illegal Money Lending Team who investigate and prosecute loan sharks in partnership with Hampshire County Council have launched a month long campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.
The Bite Back campaign which is focused around the Aldershot area brings together partners from Hampshire County Council Trading Standards, Rushmoor Borough Council, First Wessex Housing Association and the Citizens Advice Bureau. They aim to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime on 0300 555 2222 if they have been a victim.
The Team have held training sessions for frontline staff at the Citizens Advice Bureau giving them a greater understanding of the dangers of loan sharks and enabling them to support or signpost anyone they meet who has been a victim.
Sessions have also been held for tenants at First Wessex Housing Association, allowing them to find out more about the ways in which loan sharks operate in order to become community advocates of the stop loan sharks message.
Posters and other publicity materials have been distributed throughout Aldershot to warn of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.
An estimated 310,000 households across the country are 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.
Hampshire County Council’s Acting Head of Trading Standards said:
“Hampshire County Council’s Trading Standards is pleased to be working with our partners on the Bite Back campaign. It is important to protect residents from the dangers of loan sharks, particularly vulnerable people.”
Ian Harrison, Head of Customer Services at Rushmoor Borough Council said: “We’d encourage anyone who has been targeted by loan sharks to use the hotline number to report the crime. If you are struggling financially and finding it difficult to pay bills such as Council Tax and housing costs, borrowing money from an illegal lender is not the answer. We’d suggest that you get in touch with the Council as soon as possible – you might find that you are entitled to extra help or we can be flexible with your payment options. There’s also lots of free support available out there from local organisations and charities.”
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 222 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:
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
Attached picture shows members of the public who attended ‘Community Advocate’ sessions and pledged to steer clear of loan sharks, and raise awareness.
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 Teams, Safety at Ports and the National Trading Standards eCrime Centre.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 222 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.
DATE: 19 April 2013