Cracking down on loan sharks this New Year
England Illegal Money Lending Team is campaigning against unscrupulous illegal money lenders, this New Year, to tie in with Step Changes’ National Debt Awareness Week.
The Team who are funded by the NTSB and work in partnership with Trading Standards Authorities across England are urging the public to avoid loan sharks at all costs, speak out if they have been a victim and look to safe and legal alternatives such as credit unions.
The Team have prosecuted some of the country’s most prolific loan sharks, not only for consumer credit offences but for other related serious criminality including firearms offences, drugs offences and blackmail. Many are now serving lengthy custodial sentences.
Following on from Christmas there are fears that those who are struggling financially may have already been tempted to turn to an illegal money lender- research shows 20% of victims in past cases stated they borrowed in the run up to Christmas- but the Team are sending out a clear message that help is available.
The Teams confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 is open 24/7 for anyone who has been a victim of this crime to report it, so the Team can take action.
Loan sharks usually appear friendly at first, but their behaviour can quickly change. Most will offer little or no paperwork so it is difficult to keep track of repayments. They will usually be very unclear of the terms of the loan, and may increase the debt or add additional amounts sporadically. Loan sharks have been known to take bank cards, post office cards and other items as security as loans and in some cases withdraw directly from borrowers accounts leaving them with little or nothing to get by on.
As loan sharks can’t legally enforce their loans many will resort to threats, intimidation, violence and worse. This can have a hugely detrimental impact on victims with many people living their lives in fear.
Consumer Minister Jenny Willott said: “Loan sharks are a blight on society, preying upon people in the most vulnerable financial situations. This National Debt Awareness Week we are determined to raise awareness and put a stop to this illegal activity.
“As well as successfully prosecuting these criminals and helping people confidentially to report loan sharks, we can put a stop to the problem by making sure people have access to affordable lending. If anyone finds themselves in financial difficulty, they can turn to free debt advice from the Money Advice Service or visit one of the ABCUL member credit unions”.
Edware Ware, Media Relations Manager at StepChange Debt Charity said “Dealing with financial difficulties not easy, but no matter how desperate the situation a loan shark will never be the answer. Sometimes it can be difficult to see a way out of debt problems, but whatever you’re situation there is a solution. That is where free and impartial debt advice organisations like StepChange Debt Charity are here to help.”
Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “No matter how desperate you are for cash never ever turn to a loan shark. It may seem like a small loan to tide you over but it can quickly spiral, and you could end up repaying the loan for many years to come. There is also a real risk that you and your loved ones could be subjected to intimidation or violence. We would urge anyone who has been a victim of this crime to speak to us in the strictest confidence on 0300 555 2222 as we are putting an end to this criminality and stopping loan sharks from preying on the public.”
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
To find your nearest credit union:
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 300 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 190 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 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.