• Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

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Almost 50 people in Hartlepool signed up to the Tees Credit Union at two special events to encourage people in the town to avoid illegal money lenders.

The events – organised by Thirteen, the Hartlepool Financial Inclusion Partnership, and the Tees Credit Union – were backed by funding from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).

Using £1,750 confiscated from convicted loan sharks, the events encouraged residents to steer away from borrowing from illegal lenders and sign up for the Tees Credit Union’s new savings incentive.

The first 50 people to sign up to Tees Credit Union at the events and save £1 a week for 12 weeks, will be awarded with a £25 savings boost straight in to their credit union account. This new incentive is being funded using proceeds of crime money which has been confiscated from convicted loan sharks.

The events took place at West View Community Centre and Kilmarnock Road Resource Centre in Hartlepool.

Fiona Heighton, Financial Inclusion Leader at Thirteen said: “These events were full of fun activities but they helped to highlight the serious issue of illegal loan sharks who can make people’s lives a misery.

“Illegal money lenders charge extortionate interest rates and offer cash loans with no paperwork attached. Credit unions are an alternative to loan sharks for people who might not be able to access traditional bank accounts as they provide access to good value loans and savings.

“The fact that so many people came along to open an account with Tees Credit Union and have some fun at the same time was really great to see.”

The England Illegal Money Lending Team’s mascot, Sid the Shark attended the events to spread the message about the dangers of taking on loans from illegal lenders. He also took the opportunity to get involved in some of the activities on offer such as crafts, face painting and an exercise class.

Tony Quigley, Head of Service for the England Illegal Money Lending Team said: “Events like this demonstrate how loan sharks cash is being put to good use to educate the local community of the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks. Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable members of our society, and use bullying tactics such as intimidation, threats and violence to enforce repayments from their victims.

“If you or someone you know has been a victim of a loan shark, we urge you to get in touch on our confidential hotline 0300 555 2222. The hotline is manned 24-hours by an officer from the IMLT and all information is treated in the strictest confidence.”

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 370 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 318 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £71.9 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 26,500 people.

To report a loan shark: