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The West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner is supporting a national campaign which is aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and helping victims escape their clutches.

The Stop Loan Sharks campaign is spearheaded by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national team committed to tackling loan sharks and providing specialist support for victims and communities affected by this crime.

The IMLT works closely with agencies including the police to ensure people aren’t financially exploited and at risk of threats, violence or other criminality.

Commissioner John Campion said “Loan sharks can have such a detrimental impact in our communities leaving people living in fear. It is right that those affected can access the right kind of help at the right time, and that this specialist team exists to tackle the problem through enforcement and education. If you or someone you know is involved with a loan shark, please contact the team in confidence.”

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We are determined to warn residents about the dangers of loan sharks, and we will work with partners to take action against them.

“Loan sharks are criminals that prey on the most vulnerable people in our communities. They trap their victims into spiralling debt and will often use intimidation and violence.

“Our message to anyone who is a victim of loan sharks is that they are not alone and to please not suffer in silence, we will support you.”

People are urged to look out for the warning signs when dealing with a loan shark:

  • They give little or no paperwork
  • Avoid telling you the interest rate or how much is still owed
  • Add random charges or keep increasing the amount
  • Take items as security, such as passports, bank cards or driving licences
  • Refuse to allow you to settle your debt
  • Resort to intimidation, threats or violence
  • May pretend to be your friend but turns nasty when money is owed’

Anyone who is concerned about debt or getting into financial difficulty can contact Citizens Advice on 0800 144 8848 for advice and support.

If you have concerns about illegal money lending, contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Notes to Editors: 

A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Loan sharks charge extortionate interest rates and often intimidate, threaten and trap vulnerable victims in a cycle of fear and violence. These criminals may seem friendly at first but borrowing from them can have devastating consequences.

It’s not always easy to spot a loan shark as they come in many different guises and will at first appear friendly, just part of the community. It’s when you can’t pay that they will turn on you. They could be a regular from the local pub, a parent in the school playground or a friend of a friend.

Some lenders have been known to take a victim’s passport, driving licence, benefits and bank cards as security for the loan, and many begin to make their borrowers feel threatened or intimidated. Some even become violent towards their victims if they fail to pay, leaving them terrified.

An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark, and with many predatory lenders moving online there are fears more people will be targeted.

Loan sharks are now using social media, from dating sites to local community groups to snare victims and control people in debt.