Stamping out the loan sharks

THURROCK is a rich quarry for loan sharks. No wonder: a study in 2005 showed that Tilbury and Purfleet were first and second respectively for the number of residents who had county court judgements (CCJs) against their name.

Now, there is a specialist team in place that is cracking down on illegal loan sharks.

The East of England Trading Standards’ Illegal Money Lending Scheme are extending there ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ Project into the area to crack down on any unlicensed lenders.

The team launched their project at the Thameside Theatre with the help of support organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau, Thurrock Council, as well as the Essex Police, Housing, Credit Union and Children’s Centres.

Shadow Deputy leader, cllr Amanda Arnold (Cons) said: “I have a lot of casework in South Ockendon where single mums have fallen prey to loan sharks. A couple of red bills arrive and they panic. That is when the sharks smell blood and charge these incomprehensible interest rates.

It is good to see they team in the borough and they have my full support.

The team – funded by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills – have been running projects all over the country to crack down on the problem.
They have been working closely with victims of illegal lenders, since the team was launched in 2004. They rely on calls from the local police, agencies and the victims themselves to catch the loan sharks.

They prosecute any illegal money lending and related offences, which have in the past included violence and kidnap and in some cases even rape. The speed at which they act on a case is dependant on the level of threat to the victim.

The team ensure people are made aware and can spot the dangers of an unlicensed lender. Signs of a loan shark may include: little or no paperwork, taking items as a security, such as a passport, appearing friendly at first and then becoming intimidating and violent and they would typically increase the amount of debt or add extra amounts.

To report a loan shark call the confidential hotline 24/7 on 0300 555 2222, text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003, email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks

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