Agencies in Middlesbrough have showed their support for a campaign which aims to drive illegal money lenders out of the town.
Middlesbrough Mayor Dave Budd and Cleveland Police & Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger were joined by several partner agencies on Monday (12 February) to sign a charter pledging a zero tolerance approach to loan sharks in Middlesbrough.
The campaign – being led by the Illegal Money Lending Team - aims to generate new intelligence about suspected loan sharks in Middlesbrough and encourage victims to come forward and report.
Dave Budd, the Elected Mayor of Middlesbrough, said:
“Loan sharks profit off other people’s misery. They prey on the vulnerable and cause untold damage to families and communities. It is absolutely right that we do everything we can to raise awareness of the tactics used by loan sharks and give people the confidence to report such activity.
“We need to ensure that people have alternatives to these criminals. That is why I pledged the council would launch a community bank – which should open later in the year – to give local people access to fair credit as well as support and advice.
“I am delighted to sign this pledge, alongside partners from across the local community to say we stand together against the illegal money lenders and commit ourselves to driving them out of our town.”
Loan sharks usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt. As the debts can’t legally be enforced, many illegal lenders will resort to threats, intimidation and violence to enforce repayment from borrowers.
Paperwork is rarely offered so victims are often left in the dark as to how much they are paying. Exorbitant extra amounts and interest are usually added at random – the highest interest seen by an illegal money lender was equivalent to a shocking 4.2 million% APR. In some cases, loan sharks have been known to take items as security including passports, driving licences and even bank cards with the PIN in order to withdraw money directly from borrowers’ accounts.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“We are pleased to see the Stop Loan Sharks message being brought to public attention through this pledge. Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities.
“Loan sharks may appear to be offering a community service but borrowers are often forced to pay back far and above what they have borrowed. Many victims 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. We will fully support you throughout and you will be offered help and support while we build a case against the illegal money lender.”
Residents are being encouraged to sign up to their local credit union in a bid to prevent people from turning to these unauthorised money lenders.
Tees Credit Union and Pioneer Credit Union have launched a new incentive which awards savers with a £25 bonus once they have saved £1 per week for 12 weeks.
This incentive is being funded using loan sharks’ cash and is limited to the first 25 accounts opened with each credit union.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject