The England Illegal Money Lending Team, in partnership with Cestria Community Housing, Durham Area Action Partnership, NEFirst Credit Union and Durham Trading Standards, are working with residents in Pelton this week to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.
From Monday July 4, 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.
Councillor Brian Stephens, cabinet portfolio holder for Neighbourhoods and local partnerships at Durham County Council said: “We hope as many Pelton residents as possible 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. They terms they offer are astronomical and so unfair that loans are paid back several times over and rarely, if ever, paid off.”
This latest campaign will be launched with a charter signing at Pelton Community Centre. Local agencies and local residents will come together to sign a pledge saying there will be a zero tolerance approach to loan sharks in Pelton. In order to spread the Stop Loan Sharks message throughout the week, the campaign will be visiting residents in Pelton on Tuesday July 5 and on Thursday July 7 to speak to as many people as possible.
There will also be an Incentive for joining the Credit Union within the week of action whereby the first 50 members who save for 10 out of a possible 12 weeks will receive £25 into their accounts with the Durham First Credit Union. The Credit Union volunteers will be available from 11am until 3pm on Monday at Pelton Community Centre for anyone who wants to open a Credit Union Account.
The incentive money is from proceeds of crime money taken from convicted loan sharks, and is intended to encourage people to save so they will never need to use a loan shark. Cestria Community Housing has kindly offered to credit any Children’s Accounts opened during the week with £5 if they too manage to save for 10 out of 12 weeks.
To encourage people to find out more about loan sharks there is a training session for volunteers and residents to be held on Wednesday July 6 starting at 1pm until 2:30pm at Pelton Community Centre. This is a free training session and anyone who would like to come can just turn up on the day and will be welcomed with tea and coffee.
Sid Rooke from NE First said “NEFirst Credit Union is pleased to be working in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team and Cestria Community Housing tackling loan sharks in the Pelton area. We have been working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team for many years and have witnessed the impact such criminals have on local communities; thankfully many communities are now fighting back and we are delighted to be part of this campaign.”
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, 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.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject