Crack Down On Loan Sharks In York
6:01am 15th October 2013
(Updated 8:54am 15th October 2013)
England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with City of York Council are raising awareness of the dangers of loan sharks as part of York Housing Week.
Through the campaign they aim to encourage people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim.
On Tuesday 15th October at 10am the public are encouraged to sign up for a 'zero tolerance to loan sharks' charter at Bell Farm Social Hall. The charter is all about bringing people together to find out more about the dangers of loan sharks and stand up against them.
To promote the safe and legal alternatives to loan sharks and encourage saving the England Illegal Money Lending Team have sponsored an initiative with South Yorkshire Credit Union. The first 25 people who join the Credit Union at the event, and continue to save will receive a £25 voucher paid for with proceeds of crime money taken from convicted loan sharks.
On Thursday 17th October the Team are hosting an open training session at the Council’s West Offices between 10.30am and 1pm. The sessions are open to all but particularly aimed at frontline staff from local agencies. The sessions talk about the dangers of loan sharks, encourage people to look out for the signs of illegal money lending activity and enable attendees to support and signpost anyone they meet in their day to day work who has been a victim of this crime. A further session will be held on Friday 18th October for landlords and other housing professionals.
An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark, say the England Illegal Money Lending Team.
They add that 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, say the team.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team tell Minster FM that paperwork is rarely offered so victims are often in the dark as to how much they are actually paying. They add that 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, say the England Illegal Money Lending Team, 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.
Cllr Linsay Cunningham-Cross, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Crime and Stronger Communities, said: “With more and more families facing problems with debt, it’s imperative people are aware of the dangers of borrowing money from illegal money lenders. With the charter we are launching today with the England Illegal Money Lending Team, loan sharks operating in York will continue to be stopped by a specialist team dedicated to cracking down on unlicensed lenders. It is important people know that there are properly regulated financial alternatives to loan sharks which can give assistance to people going through tough times, and have safer access to loans. Our nearest credit union run on mutual lines, is the South Yorkshire Credit Union which can be contacted at City of York Council’s West Offices, Station Rise, York, telephone 01904 552236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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 the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 267 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 172 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 22,000 victims.
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