Bury Council have joined Greater Manchester Police and partners in tackling illegal money lending as the hunting season for loan sharks begins.
The aim is to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks, encourage people to turn away from them, and to report the crime if they have been a victim.
An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark, and with Christmas approaching there are fears more people will be targeted - 20% of victims in previous cases took out a loan to pay for Christmas.
The ‘shark hunters’ came to Bury Market on Wednesday (2 Dec) as part of a region-wide campaign.
Councillor Sandra Walmsley, Bury’s cabinet member for resource and regulation, said: “Loan sharks are criminals, taking advantage of people in desperate situations for their own financial advantage. This time of year is especially profitable for them as they prey on people trying to cope with the pressures of Christmas and provide for their loved ones.
“I urge anyone who is struggling to manage financially to steer clear from loan sharks and look at legal alternatives, such as credit unions. Before doing anything, please seek help and advice from agencies such as Citizens Advice or the Money Advice Service.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson said: “Loan sharks usually appear helpful at first, but they quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt. As the debts can’t be legally enforced and claimed back through the courts, many lenders will resort to the most extreme tactics to enforce repayment including threats, violence and intimidation.
"By taking these lenders off the streets we are effectively removing the funds they have to fund other criminality or illegal possessions such as firearms or drugs. I want communities to know that they do not have to live in fear – speak out and we will act immediately on any information received."
Tony Quigley, head of the England illegal Money Lending Team, said they had secured more than 300 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 212 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £62 million worth of illegal debt and helped more than 26,000 victims so far.
To report a loan shark:
- Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
- Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
- E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send a private message via www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
Press release issued: 8 December 2015.
Picture: Cllr Sandra Walmsley is pictured with Glenda the Lender, who came to Bury Market on Wednesday (2 Dec) to campaign against loan sharks.