VIDEO – This may be a bit of fun, but there’s nothing funny about loan sharks
An estimated 310,000 households, including those in Widnes and Runcorn, borrowed from a loan shark this year, with some victims saying they took out a loan to pay for Christmas.
Halton Trading Standards is working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to raise awareness of the issue and to urge anyone who has borrowed from a loan shark to contact them in confidence, 24 hours a day, on 0300 555 2222.
These people will be paying high interest rates but also run the risk of falling victim to the loan shark’s often aggressive and violent collection methods or be subject to huge pressure to borrow even greater amounts of money.
Halton Borough Council’s Executive Board Member for Trading Standards, Cllr Dave Cargill, said: “Loan Sharks lend money illegally which means they don’t provide the borrower with the legal protections that legitimate businesses offer and more importantly, they are often involved with other forms of criminality such as drugs, guns and violence.
“They usually target those who would struggle to access credit through legitimate sources. At first they may behave as a friend who is helping you out, but once payments are missed many will become intimidating, threatening or violent.”
Loan sharks rarely offer paperwork, keeping their borrowers in the dark. They will often refuse to tell the borrower how much they owe, how much longer they have to pay and how much interest they are paying on top ( in some cases interest has been as high as a staggering 131,000% APR).
Loan sharks gain complete control of the victims and their finances. In some cases the loan sharks have taken the borrowers bank and post office card with the PIN to withdraw directly from their accounts, leaving them with nothing or very little to get by on.
As these debts are usually not enforceable in law, many loan sharks will resort to bully tactics to enforce repayment.
If you or somebody you know is in this situation, help is just a phone call away. The England Illegal Money Lending Team has officers that can provide practical support to help victims escape the loan shark as well as investigating and prosecuting the offender.
They have already prosecuted loan sharks for illegal money lending, blackmail, threatening behaviour, violence, kidnap, drugs offences and rape.
The Team has had more than 332 successful prosecutions resulting in 230 years-worth of custodial sentences, and more than 27,500 victims have been helped.
If you believe you have borrowed from a loan shark, contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence so that they can help you.
You can also report a Loan Shark, even if you’re not a victim, by contacting the team:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks
Find them on Facebook www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject