Lancashire’s campaign against loan sharks

The England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with Lancashire County Council and SWLICAN (South West Lancashire Independent Community Advice Network) are to launch a campaign to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim.

Representatives from the agencies, along with mascot Sid the Shark will be out and about in the local community, offering information and advice on why these criminals should always be avoided. Join us:

Monday 25th March: Information, Debt Management and Loan Shark Awareness Day (this event is invitation only and is now full)

Thursday 28th March: 9am-3pm Ormskirk Market, Moor Street, Ormskirk, L39 2AA

Tuesday 2nd April: 10am-3pm Community Information Day at Tanhouse Community Centre, Ennerdale, Skelmersdale, WN8 6AN

Wednesday 3rd April: 10am-3pm Community Information Day and Family Fun Event at Digmoor Community Centre, Digmoor, Skelmersdale, WN8 9HR

Friday 5th April: 9.30am-3pm the Concourse Shopping Centre, Southway, Skelmersdale, WN8 6LN

Monday 8th April: 9.30am-3pm Morrisons Supermarket, Park Road, Ormskirk, L39 3RB

At the event at Digmoor Community Centre on Wednesday 2nd April ARTZ, a local young people’s drama group will perform a series of mini plays highlighting issues in relation to illegal money lending and debt.

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.

County Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council and cabinet member responsible for trading standards said: “We will not tolerate loan sharks in Lancashire and I very much welcome this imaginative initiative.

“This campaign is part of a strategic approach to tackling illegal money lending and the serious criminality it supports. Loan sharks often start off seeming friendly and helpful, but soon changes when their victims can’t keep up with the extortionate interest rates.

“My advice to anyone in West Lancashire and the rest of the county who needs to borrow money or who are experiencing financial difficulties, is to approach legitimate sources of help like credit unions.”

Anthony Greenway, Debt Adviser at ICAN said “as an Advice Organisation we are seeing more and more residents struggling to pay food bills and meet housing costs. We know we cannot afford to let these illegal lenders get any sort of foothold in our communities as they promote hope but only deliver pain. We encourage any residents who are having any financial problems to seek free proper independent help and advice and if you know of any illegal lenders then please use the confidential Help Line.”

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.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

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For more information contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881617119. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430.

Notes to editors

The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) represents all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as Scambusters, the Illegal Money Lending Teams, Safety at Ports and the National Trading Standards eCrime Centre.

Nationally, 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.

Funded by the National Trading Standards Board, the Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams; England, Scotland and Wales. Hosted by Birmingham City Council and working in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities up and down the country, the England Team consists of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders. The project piloted in 2004, and expanded in 2007.

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