A campaign aimed at tackling unscrupulous loan sharks has been launched in Mendip, Somerset.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) teamed up with the Mendip Neighbourhood Policing Team, Mendip District Council, and the Pluss organisation to deliver a series of community-based events in Shepton Mallet at the end of July.
The ‘Bite Back’ campaign raises awareness of the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks, signposts residents to support, and highlights alternative and safer ways to save and borrow money through the local credit union.
The IMLT’s national mascot, Sid the Shark, was spotted in the town handing out information to residents about illegal money lending and how to access specialist help.
Frontline staff were also trained on how to spot loan sharks and refer clients to the relevant support services where required.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England IMLT said: “Loan sharks cause untold misery in our communities and take advantage of vulnerable people in difficult financial situations.
“We’re committed to doing everything possible to tackle their activities and help residents find legal and affordable alternatives.
“This campaign is a fantastic example of the benefits of partnership work, as well as sending out a powerful message that loan sharks are not welcome in Somerset.
“We urge anyone with information about illegal money lending to come forward to access support and help us bring offenders to justice.”
Cllr Barry O’Leary, Portfolio Holder for Enterprise and Finance, Mendip District Council, said: “Partnership working is an invaluable way to try and stop loan sharks causing unjust suffering to financially vulnerable people.
“The Council has a working group that looks at how to break the cycle of those disadvantaged in the district. This important work supports those most in need with financial advice and support.
“Mendip District Council is here for you. We have increased our financial hardship funding to £50,000, which can be used to support those struggling to pay bills, such as council tax. I implore you to contact the Council to see what your options are before thinking about taking out a loan.
“If you have been a victim of a loan shark, always seek help from trusted advisors such as the Council or from specialist services like the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT). Don’t forget that your Parish and Town Councils are also a fantastic source of support in your community.”
Residents are being urged to lookout for the tell-tale signs when dealing with loan sharks:
- They refuse to provide you with proper paperwork about your loan – you’re never sure what you owe, or the interest being charged.
- They refuse to give you information, such as the time left on the loan, or what you’ve repaid so far.
- They keep adding unfair amounts of interest to the amount you owe so it never goes down.
- If you miss payments, they’ll use scare tactics such as intimidation and threats to pressure you into paying them.
- They may take your things if you don’t pay what they want on time.
- They may withhold your possessions such as your bank card or passport until the debt is repaid.
- They may pretend to be your friend at first but threaten to tell others about the debt if you fail to pay back money on time.
The IMLT also took part in an awareness feature about loan sharks for CHAOS TV. Watch the full interview on the Pluss Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PlussInspires
If you’ve been affected by illegal money lending, or you’re concerned about someone you know, you can access support on the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222. Live Chat is available 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday at www.stoploansharks.co.uk