Buckinghamshire Bites Back Against Loan Sharks In A Month Long Campaign
Don’t get bitten by a loan shark is the message in a month long campaign in Buckinghamshire to raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.
South Bucks District Council, Chiltern District Council and Wycombe District Council are working in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Buckinghamshire Trading Standards and other local partners to host ‘Bite Back’ month.
Throughout April, the agencies will be highlighting the dangers of loan sharks to residents. The England Illegal Money Lending Team are hosting training sessions for frontline staff from a variety of agencies including housing associations, benefits agencies, community safety teams, the police, money and debt advice agencies and the citizen advice bureau. The sessions enable staff to spot the key signs if one of their clients falls prey to a loan shark, in order to support them and signpost them towards help.
There are an estimated 310,000 households in debt to illegal money lenders across the UK.
Most illegal money lenders appear friendly at first, but their behaviour can quickly change. Few offer paperwork, keeping their borrowers in the dark as to how long they will be repaying and how much interest they will pay. Many will add on extra amounts at exorbitant rates of interest- interest as high as 131,000% APR has been seen. Once people are in a position where they are unable to repay, many illegal money lenders will use violence, threats or intimidation to force borrowers into paying back far more than they can afford.
Other activities throughout the month include; primary school assemblies to enable children to learn more about the issue, in the hope that they will share what they have learnt and be aware of the dangers in order to avoid loan sharks in later life; community events in which representatives from the Team and other agencies will be on hand to offer information and advice; and posters and banners with the hotline number for reporting loan sharks will be displayed throughout Buckinghamshire.
“Illegal money lenders often prey on vulnerable people such as single mums with young families, often using intimidation, because they know they struggle to make ends meet” says Margaret Aston, County Council Cabinet Spokesman for Locality Working. “We want to put a stop to this disgraceful exploitation by these sharks," she continues "Our message to anyone in Buckinghamshire considering a loan from an illegal money lender is always ’don't!’ but call 0300 555 2222 to report them in confidence. You can also visit the local Citizens' Advice Bureau, call the local Credit Union or phone our Trading Standards team for help and advice."
South Bucks District Councillor, Anita Cranmer, Portfolio Holder for Community said “During the month of April, we hope to improve the knowledge of frontline staff and raise awareness of the help available to residents with money worries or those who are involved with loan sharks. Workshops to raise awareness of the problem are being held for Councillors and the hotline- 0300 555 2222- will be displayed throughout the district.”
Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Illegal money lenders do not offer a community service, they may appear to be doing you a favour at first but they are only serving their own greed. These criminals trap people into spiralling debt, before resorting to the most extreme bully tactics. We would urge anyone who has fallen prey to an illegal money lender, or knows of someone who has, to call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222.”
The England Illegal Money Lending Team specialise in investigating and prosecuting offenders for this crime. Alongside Teams in Scotland and Wales, they have secured more than 200 prosecutions, leading to custodial sentences in excess of 130 years, plus an indefinite sentence for public protection. Almost £40 million worth of illegal debt has been written off and over 18,000 victims have been helped.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks
Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
For more information please contact
South Bucks District Council,
Denham, Bucks. UB9 4LH
Tel: 01895 837200