Campaign launches to tackle loan sharks in Lincolnshire
The England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with Lincolnshire County Council and a range of local partners are launching a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.
Through the campaign focused around Gainsborough they aim to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim.
Training sessions will be held for frontline staff at West Lindsey District Council’s Benefit and Council Tax departments, Shelter, Job Centre Plus, the Citizens Advice Bureau, for officers in Lincolnshire Police and for volunteers at the Food Bank. The sessions will give attendees a greater understanding of the dangers of loan sharks, enabling them to support and signpost anyone they meet in their day to day work who has been a victim.
• Lincs Credit Union will be on hand offering a safe and legal alternative to loan sharks. The first 10 people who drop in to West Lindsey District Council, Marshall’s Yard on Tuesday 30th July between 10am and 2pm and become a member will receive a £20 bonus in their accounts if they continue to save for three months. The initiative is funded with proceeds of crime money taken from convicted loan sharks. Please bring two forms of ID.
• A drop in event will be held at Park Springs Community Centre, Riseholme Road on Friday 2nd August between 1pm and 3pm where representatives from the England Illegal Money Lending Team, ACIS housing and other local agencies will be on hand to offer advice.
• The Team’s mascot Sid the Shark will be out and about at Gainsborough market on Tuesday 30th July.
• A banner will be displayed in Marshall’s Yard shopping centre for a month, promoting the 0300 555 2222 hotline number for reporting loan sharks.
• Leaflets will be delivered to homes throughout Gainsborough, encouraging anyone who has been a victim of the crime to report it.
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.
Mark Heal, service manager from Lincolnshire Trading Standards, comments: "Loan sharks take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in society. They profit from other people’s hardship and will often enforce repayment by blackmail or threats of violence.
"The County Council, together with the England Illegal Money Lending Team, is trying to protect the residents of Lincolnshire by clamping down and loan sharks and preventing them operating in the area."
Cllr Irmgard Parrott, chairman at West Lindsey District Council, said: “We’re pleased to be taking part in this campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.
“We take our safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously. Illegal money lenders often target vulnerable people and we will do whatever we can to support all residents to make the right choices and avoid become victims of this appalling crime.”
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 255 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 165 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 20,000 victims.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
For more information contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119 or email email@example.com. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
NTSB provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales. The NTSB has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 255 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 165 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 20,000 people.
The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist 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.
DATE: 29 July 2013