Warning of loan shark dangers in Worcester
Worcester City Council is supporting a national campaign to prevent vulnerable people falling victim to loan sharks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continued economic uncertainty during the pandemic, with many people facing redundancy, means loan sharks may look to take advantage of people in a vulnerable position who feel they have nowhere to turn for help.
The Stop Loan Sharks campaign aims to reach out to those who are most at risk and show them that there is support available.
Councillor Lynn Denham, Vice Chair of Worcester City Council's Communities Committee, said: "Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable people and are a blight on our communities. They fleece their victims and have been known to use intimidation and violence to get their money.
"Worcester City Council wants to let residents know that we will not allow this bullying and criminal behaviour and we will work with our partners to target those who think they are above the law and can get away with it.
"I would urge anyone who desperately needs financial help to not turn to a loan shark but instead to talk to Citizens Advice Worcester or a credit union. The City Council also has a range of ways to support people who are struggling with money."
People who are facing financial hardship can find a range of support from Worcester City Council. This includes discounts on Council Tax for people who are struggling to pay; discretionary housing payments to help people who are unable to pay their rent; and a Discretionary Welfare Assistance Scheme that can help low income households to pay for food or white goods if they are experiencing a crisis.
A Community Recovery Strategy is being rolled out by the City Council in the wake of the pandemic lockdown. This will provide support in a range of areas, including financial hardship and welfare support.
Visit the Citizens Advice Worcester website or call 03444 111 303.
Loan sharks may see opportunities to target families struggling to pay for back-to-school costs in these uncertain times.
Mum-of-five Becky tried to take her own life after borrowing just £50 from a loan shark to buy school uniforms and ended up paying back an estimated £35,000.
The loan shark would text her children if she was late with payments and warned they would be coming to visit unless she paid up.
She said: "What I'd say to other people is, 'Don't be tempted'.
"I know it's hard if you've got no money. Borrowing may seem like easy cash but it causes misery. Get help."
Becky said the loan shark initially posed as a friend but quickly turned nasty – even waiting outside her post office on child benefit day to grab money.
When the truth finally came out, Becky's case was passed to the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and she received immediate emotional and practical help for her situation.
She added: "The first time I spoke to them I was still too scared to tell them everything. I blamed myself for letting it continue that long."
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is a specialist Trading Standards team which investigates and prosecutes loan sharks.
Since its launch in 2004, the IMLT has prosecuted over 400 people for illegal money lending and crimes such as blackmail, kidnapping, rape and assault.
It has also written off £83 million in illegal debt and helped more than 30,000 victims.
Anyone who feels they have been a victim is urged to contact the team in confidence on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: "Loan sharks are unregulated, often give cash loans without any paperwork and charge extortionate interest rates. They may offer what appears to be a quick-fix small loan, but in the long term, any money borrowed will come at a very high price and may lead to violence, threats and intimidation.
"I am urging anyone who has been a victim of this crime, or thinks they have been targeted by loan sharks, to get in contact with us. We can help you access specialist services and provide emotional and practical support."