Loan sharks operating in Thurrock will now be stopped in their tracks by a specialist team cracking down on unlicensed lenders. The East of England Trading Standards illegal money lending team, will be extending the established and successful ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ project to include the area.
At a launch event at Thameside Theatre, Thurrock on Thursday 7th October 2010, workers from support organisations including the CAB, Council, Credit Union, Police, Housing and Children’s Centres will come together to protect vulnerable people from this crime.
Loan sharking is a massive problem nationally with an estimated 200,000 households in debt to unlicensed lenders. As these lenders operate illegally, they can resort to the worst possible bully tactics, making their victims lives a misery. The team will prosecute for illegal money lending and other related offences- in the past these have included threats, violence, kidnap and even rape.
Loan sharks are known to trap their victims into a spiral of debt. With a lack of paperwork, they keep their victims in the dark about how much they still owe and can charge sky high interest rates- the team have recently prosecuted a loan shark who charged 131,000% APR.
One victim recently spoke after being hassled by a loan shark for a number of years. On her loan for £150, she paid back over £5000.
The team- funded by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills- have been working tirelessly up and down the country to stamp out this problem. They have secured almost 80 years worth of custodial sentences so far plus one indefinite sentence for public protection, written off over £25million worth of illegal debt and seized and confiscated over £2.5million in cash.
They also work closely with those who were involved with unlicensed lenders, supporting more than 14,500 victims since the team initially launched in 2004. They work with partnership agencies such as housing associations and credit unions to ensure those who work at grass roots with communities, are able to spot an unlicensed lender and are aware of the dangers.
Typically a loan shark would;
– Offer little or no paperwork.
– Increase the debt constantly and/or add extra amounts.
– Take items as security on the loan. These could include passports or bankcards.
– Appear friendly at first but quickly become intimidating or violent.
Tony Quigley Head of the East of England Trading Standards illegal money lending team said “The team will not tolerate loan sharks and their despicable tactics. At first they may seem friendly but they often target those who are vulnerable, and struggle to access mainstream credit, making their lives a living hell. Under no circumstances should unlicensed lenders be used and we would urge people to speak out and report them.
Our trained investigators are on hand, clamping down on these criminals and supporting the victims. Call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222”
Thurrock Council Portfolio Holder for Crime and Disorder, Councillor Gerard Rice said: “Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable members of society and we are pleased that this worthwhile initiative is moving into Thurrock to help protect our residents from these dishonest individuals.”