(source: England Illegal Money Lending Team)
The England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with Suffolk County Council Trading Standards, Haverhill Town Council, Suffolk Constabulary, Haverhill CAB, REACH, Havebury Housing, Eastern Savings and Loans Credit Union and other partners is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.
Loan sharks operate illegally, without the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority. 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.
Through the week long campaign the partners 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 launches on Monday 24th November, at Haverhill Arts Centre, as local agencies unite with Councillor Roger André, Mayor of Haverhill, to sign a charter pledging a zero tolerance approach to illegal money lending and to increase the confidence of residents to use safe legal credit options such as Eastern Savings and Loans credit union and to seek timely debt advice from agencies such as Haverhill Citizens Advice Bureau and REACH. If you are a tenant of Havebury Housing, they will also be able to help you get free debt advice.
Following the charter signing, frontline staff from local agencies will be invited to attend a free training session covering the dangers of loan sharks, and enabling them to support and signpost anyone they meet in their day to day work who has been a victim of this crime.
A drop in event will be held for the public at:
Haverhill Market: Between 8am and 4pm on Friday 28th November.
Partners will also be raising awareness in local primary schools, visiting homes to speak to residents and will be generally distributing publicity.
Throughout the week, there will be opportunities to take part in a quiz testing the public’s knowledge of loan sharks, with a £100 shopping voucher up for grabs, paid for with proceeds of crime money, taken from convicted loan sharks.
An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark.
Councillor Roger André, Mayor of Haverhill, said “All partners are delighted to support this initiative to raise awareness of the perils of loan sharks. They lurk silently below the public radar and we aim to promote credit unions like Eastern Savings and Loans as a safe legal alternative way to borrow money”
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.”
The England Illegal Money Lending Team has so far prosecuted more than 310 illegal money lenders across the country. Many of these criminals have extorted cash from communities, leaving their victims with little or nothing to get by on and often living in fear. Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Illegal money lenders are a scourge on our communities, making life a misery for their victims. We would always urge victims of illegal money lenders to seek help by contacting us in confidence on 0300 555 2222”
To report a loan shark: