Warning of loan shark dangers in Great Yarmouth
People are being warned of the dangers of loan sharks operating in the Great Yarmouth area.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team in partnership with Norfolk County Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council are launching a campaign on Monday to raise awareness.
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.
The campaign launches on Monday, when agencies in Great Yarmouth will unite to sign a charter pledging a zero tolerance approach to illegal money lending.
Throughout the week representatives from the England Illegal Money Lending Team, a specialist team who investigate and prosecute loan sharks will be on hand to offer information and advice to local people.
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On Tuesday they will be visiting St Georges Primary School on St Peters Road, to hand out stickers with mascot Sid the Shark.
And on Friday they will be at Asda in the foyer between 11am and 2pm.
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Throughout the week agencies including Age UK, Genesis Housing Association, Young women's charity GFS platform, disability advice network DIAL, YMCA Norfolk, and charity Family Action will be testing the public's knowledge of the dangers of loan sharks, with a quiz. One winner will be awarded a £100 shopping voucher paid for with proceeds of crime money, taken from convicted loan sharks.
Furthermore the Team will host a training session for frontline staff at local agencies, giving them a better understanding of the dangers of loan sharks in order to support and signpost anyone they meet in their day to day work who has been a victim of this crime.
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 131,000pc 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.
Dan Roper, cabinet member for community protection at Norfolk County Council, said: 'Loan sharks specifically target vulnerable people in our communities and the loans they offer can tempt people into a decision they later regret.
'If you do find yourself excluded from high street sources of lending Credit Unions can provide an important source of credit and we implore people to use these safe means rather than contemplate illegal unregulated lenders.'
Trevor Wainwright, the leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: 'I am delighted to sign the charter pledging a tough stance on illegal money lending, which causes misery to the poorest members of society, and is something which everyone must work together to stamp-out.
'Illegal money lending happens everywhere, and the problem is no better or worse in the Great Yarmouth borough than anywhere else. The England Illegal Money Lending Team is touring the country as part of their campaign to proactively crack-down on this crime – and the borough council is delighted to welcome and support them.'
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 266 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 171 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £40.3m worth of illegal debt and helped over 22,000 victims.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text 'loan shark + your message' to 60003
Private message www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject