Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Barrow Landlords fight back against loan sharks

Pub landlords in Barrow have been learning about the perils of borrowing from illegal money lenders, in order to help their customers.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team, a specialist unit in place to investigate and prosecute loan sharks hosted a presentation for bar staff at the Barrow Barwatch meeting, which explained how illegal lenders operate and what help is available for those who fall victim.

The Team who work in partnership Cumbria County Council, also worked alongside Barrow Crime and Disorder Partnership, to distribute 5000 beer mats with the Teams contact details, throughout the town's pubs and bars.

Loan sharks usually operate by word of mouth, very few advertise and most people fall victim after the loan shark was recommended to them by a friend.

They often meet their victims in bars or pubs, which is why the Team are asking landlords and bar staff to be alert.

Loan sharks are usually friendly at first but their behaviour changes when payments are missed. They can make their victims lives a misery, by adding additional amounts to the debt and charging exorbitant rates of interest- the Team have prosecuted illegal lenders who were charging up to 131,000% APR. Many will trap their victims into spiralling debt and then resort to extreme methods such as intimidation, threats or violence to enforce repayment.

Tony Quigley Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said “Illegal money lenders are a scourge on our communities. These criminals are motivated by greed and have been known to the worst kinds of bully tactics, to force people to pay back over the odds. We would urge anyone who is the victim of an illegal lender to call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222. Calls are answered by a trained investigator 24/7

Dave Coverdale Chair of the Barrow Crime and Disorder Partnership said “Barrow CDRP would like to commend the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team and their efforts to eradicate unscrupulous individuals who prey on members of the Community through unlicensed money lending. Recent presentations from the Team have highlighted how this can impact massively on both individuals and their families, creating misery and additional hardship to those members of the public who are vulnerable and very often, already financially deprived.
The Partnership will continue to seek ways to raise awareness regarding issues around illegal money lending and highlight how individuals can access support should they be approached or become involved.”

Angela Jones, Cumbria County Council's Trading Standards Service Manager, said: "People who borrow money from loan sharks feel they have nowhere to turn for help but through partnership working we can combat illegal money lending and raise awareness of the pitfalls of borrowing in this way.

I would urge residents to report suspicious loan shark activity and help make a stand against illegal money lending in our communities. We need to send a strong message that loan sharks will not be tolerated in Cumbria.‬‪"

Nationally the Stop Loan Shark Project has secured over 190 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to 113 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 16,000 victims.

To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk  
Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks

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