THE England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with Thurrock Council and a number of local partners launched a week long campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.
Through the campaign they aim to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to call 0300 555 2222 to report the crime if they have been a victim.
The campaign was launched on Monday when local agencies joined The Mayor of Thurrock, Councillor Yash Gupta, to sign a charter pledging a zero tolerance approach to loan sharks in Thurrock.
This was followed by a free training session which highlighted the impact that loan sharks can have on their victims and covers the key things which people should be looking out for as a frontline worker or volunteer, to be able to support any signpost anyone they meet in their day to day work who has been a victim of this crime.
A series of drop in events will take place throughout the week for the public to seek advice from the Illegal Money Lending Team and Trading Standards. Essex Savers Credit Union will be on hand to offer a safe and legal alternative to loan sharks, and there will be support from Essex Police.
Wednesday 24th April: 10am-12noon and 1pm-3pm: Asda, Tilbury
Thursday 25th April: 10am-12noon and 1pm-3pm: Morrisons, Grays
Friday 26th April: 10am-12noon and 1pm-3pm: Asda, Tilbury
Furthermore Sheltered Housing Centres across Thurrock will be hosting coffee mornings throughout the week to discuss the dangers of loan sharks:
Tuesday 23rd April: 11am: Jack Evans Court, South Ockendon
Wednesday 24th April: 11am: Crown Court, Tilbury
Thursday 25th April: 11am: Frederick Andrews Court, Grays.
Friday 26th April: 11am: Crown Court, Tilbury
The Team will also be offering advice to parents at the school gates and launching a quiz to test the publics’ knowledge of the dangers of loan sharks.
There are 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.
Thurrock Council portfolio holder for Public Protection, Cllr Angie Gaywood said: “Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable people. Individuals should never approach them for help, no matter what their situation it will not be worth it in the long run. It is important that people know how to get help when financial worries become a problem and that going to a loan shark should not be an option’’
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”
Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 222 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.