Tackling Loan Sharks In Arun

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.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), in partnership with Arun Citizen’s Advice and Think Family are working to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks with residents in the area.

From Monday 25th April, a Week of Action will take place to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have borrowed a victim, as well as offer advice on alternative affordable lending options.

This latest campaign will include Stop Loan Sharks “Community Advocate” training for residents and partner agencies at Bognor Regis Town Hall on the 27th April. If you would like to come along to one of the hour long sessions during the day please email Catherine.wohlers@birmingham.gov.uk or call 07825 904 587 to book.

Elizabeth Stanton, Research and Campaigns Lead, Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice says:

“I would encourage you to speak to a member of our staff if you are concerned about a loan shark and not to be afraid to speak out. We work closely with the IMLT and can get you the appropriate help.

A client who visited Citizen’s Advice told the advisor about a loan shark who threatened borrowers by telling them he would “break their legs” and “chuck acid into their face so no-one would recognise them again”. The Advisor encouraged the client to speak to the IMLT which led to the loan sharks arrest. He was sentenced to four and half years in prison.

Citizens Advice Arun and Chichester (ACCA) have a committed Research and Campaign team who raise awareness of all scams, and Loan Sharks is very much at the forefront of their campaigning at the moment. All staff and volunteers are trained to raise awareness and also spot any possible issues.

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team adds “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. We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence as we can help”

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222

E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

For more information about the IMLT contact Catherine Wohlers, on 07500 809339 or email catherine.wohlers@birmingham.gov.uk.

To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail nationaltradingstandards@grayling.com.