|Private tenants targeted in Wigan Borough campaign
Some of the most hard to reach individuals and families in Wigan Borough will be targeted in a month long campaign led by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).
The Enforcement team is working in partnership with Wigan Council’s Trading Standards and Licensing Section to tackle loan sharks, and is launching a loan shark awareness campaign in July.
The campaign, supported by the homeless charity The Brick and Unify Credit Union, will focus on helping those who live in private rented accommodation, reminding them that they should never use a loan shark to pay rent or a deposit. It is a issue that is feared to be hidden and often goes unreported by victims.
It will also inform them that support is available from the council and charities if they are struggling to make ends meet, by providing bonds or deposits.
The campaign will see a pop up stand in Wigan town centre on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th July, where the Illegal Money Leading team will be providing information to residents about the dangers of using loan sharks. Their mascot “Sid the shark” will be persuading people to complete a short quiz about loan sharks, which will see participants enter a free prize drawer where they could win a £50 voucher. There will also be a mosaic on display, created by service users of The Brick after they received training on the risks of using loan sharks.
There will also be posters on display in local letting agents, hostels and shared accommodation homes, and the council’s Trading Standards will be giving out leaflets and information to residents throughout the month as well.
Loan sharks will typically appear friendly at first but their behaviour can quickly change with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts. They operate illegally, without the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority and rarely give paperwork, keeping borrowers in the dark as to how much they are paying back. Some will even take items such as passports as security or even bank cards with the PIN in order to withdraw directly from borrowers’ accounts.
Lord Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “The process of moving home can be expensive and loan sharks take advantage of this, striking just when people feel under real financial pressure. It is crucial that people know that, even if they’re renting privately, there is help available to them if they get into financial difficulty. Loan sharks are illegal, predatory and should never be considered as an option.
"National Trading Standards are committed to tackling loan sharks and we look forward to making a real difference for private tenants across the country over the next month. If anyone suspects an individual of loan sharking or has been a victim themselves then I would urge them to call the hotline or email email@example.com.”
Councillor Kevin Anderson, Wigan Council cabinet member for environment, said: “Illegal money lending is a crime which we continue to face across the country. With bills that continue to rise, and the access to credit remains difficult, it is important to make our residents aware of the dangers of signing up with one of these unscrupulous lenders.
“Loan Sharks often prey on the most vulnerable members of our community and it usually leads to them getting into even greater debt and financial difficulty as well as the other problems which can follow from this situation.
“I recommend anyone who is a victim to report the matter as soon as possible.”
Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said “During the month our aim as a national team is to make a difference locally. Whether a community is urban, inner city or rural we understand that loan sharks lend to those in private, social and council tenancies and indeed home owners. Our aim is to tackle any current illegal money lending issues whilst sending a preventative message to all – loan sharks are not a safe or cheap way to borrow money, even if you’re doing so to move home.
"We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark, or knows of someone who has to contact us in the strictest confidence on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous if they wish.”
To report a loan shark, call 0300 555 222, email firstname.lastname@example.org, text ‘loan shark and your message’ to 60003 or visit www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject and send a private message.