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Cracking down on illegal loan sharks in Bury

Press Release   •   Nov 05, 2013 14:30 GMT

Bury Council has joined the England Illegal Money Lending Team in raising awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

Representatives from the team, along with mascot Sid the Shark, will be in the community encouraging people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim.

Visit the displays and drop in for advice:

* Monday 11 November (11am-2pm) - Morrisons, Whitefield (11am to 2pm) and at St Michael’s Church Hall, Albert Road, Whitefield (1-3pm)

* Tuesday 12 November – Radcliffe Market (11am-noon)

* Wednesday 13 November – Asda, Radcliffe (11am-2pm)

* Friday 15 November - Bury Market (11am-1.30pm)

As part of the campaign, on Monday 11 November a one-off toddler story time and craft event will be held at Radcliffe Library (2-3pm) and on Tuesday 12 November at Whitefield Library (2-2.30pm). The story ‘Shark in the Park’ by Nick Sharratt will be read and youngsters will be encouraged to make their own sharks and telescopes.

Assemblies about the dangers of loan sharks, with a poster competition, will be held at local primary schools and word searches, quizzes and colouring competitions will run throughout the week.

In Bury, there will be a talk with the local landlords’ forum, loan shark awareness training for the benefits teams at Whittaker Street, and school assemblies.

Councillor Tony Isherwood, Bury’s cabinet member for environment, said: “Christmas can cause stress to many families due to the extra financial pressure it creates. The 'credit crunch' will undoubtedly add to the anxiety of those who are worried about the cost of paying for Christmas.

“Bury Council wants to make sure that residents who need extra cash in the run up to the festive period don't make the mistake of turning to loan sharks. This week of activity and the launch of the new Bury Credit Union is our way of making our citizens aware of better ways to look after your money as well taking action against anyone operating illegally.”

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.

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “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. Many 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, as we can help.”

Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 290 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 172 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 22,000 victims.

To report a loan shark:

* Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222

* Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003

* Email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

* Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

ENDS

Press release issued: 5 November 2013.

Notes to editors:

The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.

NTSB provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.

The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales.  The NTSB has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 290 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 172 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 22,000 people.

The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.