The England Illegal Money Lending Team along with the Borough Council, Suffolk Trading Standards and other agencies want to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and to encourage people to contact the Ipswich & Suffolk Credit Union, who have an office in Austin Street and collection points at a number of locations across the Borough.
Illegal money lending loan sharks or unlicensed money lenders operate outside the law. They charge very high interest rates and might use threats and violence to frighten people who cannot pay back the money they borrowed.
Through the week the agencies involved along with mascot ‘Sid the Shark will be out and about, visiting the communities in Racecourse, Priory, Gainsborough and Gloucester and offering advice to parents at the school gates of three local primary schools- Morland Road, Pipers Vale and Murrayfield Primary School.
Sessions will also be held for pupils at the above schools, helping them to gain an understanding of the dangers so they will share what they have learnt with their families and turn away from loan sharks in later life.
Promoting the credit union as a safe and legal alternative to loan sharks is an integral part of the campaign. Suffolk Trading Standards have put forward £5000 worth of proceeds of crime money to encourage people to join up and save with Ipswich and Suffolk Credit Union. The first 100 new members who join during the awareness week and the first 100 existing members, who recommend a friend, will each receive a bonus.
Sessions will be held during the week for the public to find out more about what a loan shark is, and what they can do to report the crime. The sessions, which are particularly valuable for those working with the public, take place on Wednesday 30th January and Friday 1st February between 1pm and 3pm and on Saturday 2nd February between 10am and midday at the Priory Centre. To register your interest contact Emma Cook at Ispwich Borough Council on 01473 433141.
Separate sessions will be held for local Councillors and Police Officers to give them an understanding of the dangers should anyone they meet in their day to day work, be the victim of a loan shark.
The event will culminate with a ‘Beat the Shark’ penalty shoot out at Gainsborough Sports Centre on Sunday 3rd February. Players will also be able to redeem a voucher for food and stop loan sharks freebies.
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.
Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for public protection, said: “It is important to remember the very real dangers loan sharks pose to our communities. A moment of debt relief can quickly turn into a lifetime of financial misery and distress.
“Loan sharks never have your best interests at heart so I would strongly urge anyone considering using them to avoid them at all costs. If you have been the victim, of a loan shark you can report this crime in confidence on 0300 555 2222″
Councillor Keith Rawlingson, Chair of Ipswich Borough Council’s South-East Area Committee, said: “Many people who borrow from loan sharks are subjected to threats and violence. Anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark should report this in confidence; they can get help and action can be taken against the loan shark.”
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”
Amanda Long – Executive Officer, Membership, marketing and Media for the East of England Co-operative said: “Our stores and services put us at the very heart of these communities and well placed to support this important campaign. As a known and trusted presence we can cooperate with the campaign team to raise awareness that loan sharks are anything but trustworthy. It is important that everyone in the community realises that illegal lending is not just part of hard-hitting TV story lines. There are already victims in our local communities and the potential for others to fall foul of these dangerous criminals. But we can work together to help stamp it out. We want those already affected to realise there is support available, protect others against becoming future victims and encourage everyone to be vigilant and to report these crimes.”
Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to almost 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
Private message us on http://www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
Filed under: Campaign Activity, Economy, Government, Ipswich Borough Council, Media, Policy, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Police Tagged: | Amanda Long, Colin Spence, Ipswich & Suffolk Credit Union, Keith Rawlingson, Loan Sharks, Sid the Shark, South East Area Committee, Suffolk Trading Standards, Tony Quigley