Posted: 19 June, 2012 at 12:40 pm
A campaign has been launched in Doncaster and Rotherham to show loan shark victims where to turn.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team who work in partnership with Doncaster Council and Rotherham Council Trading Standards and South Yorkshire Police, run a hotline for victims of loan sharks to report them in confidence.
The Team have worked with Refurnish, a local charity and social enterprise to ensure the hotline number – 0300 555 2222 – is seen far and wide.
Refurnish strive to provide affordable furniture to people on limited budgets by collecting bulky furniture items and refurbishing them for sale in local shops.
Ten refurnish vans which are driven around Doncaster and Rotherham have the hotline number on the side, and a display has been created in the window of their new shop in Wath to raise awareness. This follows on from a display at their Doncaster shop.
There are an estimated 310,000 household across the UK using loan sharks. These unlicensed lenders usually appear friendly at first, but will quickly trap the borrower into a web of debt, by adding additional amounts and extra charges. Some loan sharks have been known to charge interest in excess of 130,000% APR.
Some lenders have been known take items ‘as security’ on the loans, and in some cases the lenders have taken bank or post office cards with the PIN in order to withdraw directly from borrowers accounts, leaving them with little or nothing to get by on. Others have resorted to extreme methods such as intimidation, threats or violence to enforce payments.
John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said: “I’m pleased to support this campaign to send out a clear message that loan sharks will not be tolerated in Rotherham, working together with the England Illegal Money Lending Team we are cracking down on this despicable crime, which has a hugely detrimental impact on the lives of victims and those around them. Help is at hand if you have borrowed from a loan shark, so please report them.”
Councillor Cynthia Ransome, Doncaster Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Street Scene and Environmental Protection, said: “Loan sharks cause misery to their victims and will not be tolerated in Doncaster.
“Working with Refurnish makes great sense as we are getting this message across to precisely the audience who are at risk from unscrupulous money lenders.
“Doncaster Council works in partnership with a wide range of organisations and takes strong action against all illegal traders to protect residents’ consumer rights.”
Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Loan sharks are a scourge on our communities, causing a great deal of misery and harm. Through initiatives like this we are able to send a clear message that loan sharks will not be tolerated, and that there is help available. We would urge anyone who knows of any illegal money lending taking place to contact us on 0300 555 2222. All calls are treated in confidence.”
South Yorkshire Police Chief Inspector Neil Thomas said: “South Yorkshire Police advise not to borrow from unlicensed money lenders. These people do not follow regulations and are operating outside the law. We would encourage anyone who has information about loan sharks or who have been a victim themselves, to come forward and report what you know.”
Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured over 210 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 130 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 18,000 victims.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks