The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is working in partnership with The Community Housing Group and Safer Wyre Forest to launch a new awareness campaign to tackle loan sharks.
The week-long campaign, ran from 14–18 May 2018, warning residents about the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders and signposting victims to the appropriate help and support available.
Work included a targeted leaflet drop on the Walshes estate and a school tour with IMLT mascot “Sid the Shark” at Birchen Coppice Primary Academy and St Bartholomew’s CofE Vc Primary School.
Loan shark information was sent home in pupils’ school bags and leaflets handed to parents at schools gates on 14 and 15 May.
Kathryn Underhill, Chair of Safer Wyre Forest, said: “We are pleased to support the England Illegal Money Lending Team and the important work they do to combat loan sharks in our county. This crime has a devastating impact on people’s lives and we hope that by raising awareness of the problem, residents will be able to spot a loan shark and get help and support if they have been bitten.”
The Community Housing Group are using reception screens to promote important information to tenants on the dangers of using illegal money lenders.
Tenants can also expect to hear a loan shark automated message when they call the housing customer service centre. The 24 hour stop loan sharks hotline number will be given to tenants in a bid to generate new intelligence about illegal money lending in communities across Worcestershire.
Ray Brookes, Group Chief Executive for The Community Housing Group, said: We are really pleased to be part of this important campaign and support the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team in cracking down on loan sharks in our district.
“Loan sharks appear friendly at first and act as though they are providing a community service but this is not the case, they exploit vulnerable people and make matters worse. We would encourage residents to come and talk to us if they are struggling with debt as there are many organisations that can help if you have money worries.”
A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Loan sharks often target low-income and desperate families; preying on struggling individuals and exploiting them for personal financial gain.
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.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, comments: “Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities. These illegal 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 in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk ”
Local groups in Worcestershire are being urged to bid for money that has been seized from loan sharks under money laundering laws.
The IMLT are encouraging groups to bid for grants of up to £5,000 to spend on a project which does at least one of the following:
Groups can submit more than one project idea and apply for up to a maximum of £5,000 per bid.
For more information about this funding scheme and to receive an electronic application form, please contact LIAISE Manager Dave Benbow on David.A.Benbow@birmingham.gov.uk
The closing date for applications is Saturday 30th June 2018.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject