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durham county council largeThe England Illegal Money Lending Team, in partnership with livin Housing, Spennymoor Area Action Partnership, Durham Constabulary and Durham Trading Standards, are working with residents in Spennymoor next week to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

From Monday July 11, a Week of Action will take place to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim, as well as offer advice on alternative affordable lending options.

This latest campaign will be launched with a charter signing at Spennymoor Town Hall. Local agencies and residents will come together to sign a pledge saying there will be a zero tolerance approach to loan sharks in Spennymoor.

In order to spread the Stop Loan Sharks message throughout the week, the campaign team will be visiting residents in Spennymoor on Monday July 11 and on Thursday July 14 to speak to as many people as possible and hand out leaflets on how to contact the Illegal Money Lending Team and also information leaflets from Prince Bishops Credit Union.

To encourage people to find out more about loan sharks there is a free training session for volunteers and residents to be held on Wednesday Jul 13 at 1pm until 2:30pm at St Paul’s Centre. Anyone who would like to attend can just come on the day and be welcomed with tea and coffee.

Councillor Brian Stephens, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships said: “We hope many Spennymoor residents will take part in the week of action. Illegal money lenders cause great harm with their activities – moreso because they tell their victims they are helping them when they are actually hurting them financially.

“The terms are often astronomical and so unfair that loans are paid back several times over and rarely, if ever, paid off.”

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 number 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, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 347 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 227 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £63.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 25,575 people.

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