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 STOKE-ON-TRENT, NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME, STAFFORDSHIRE MOORLANDS, SOUTH CHESHIRE

People urged not to turn to loan sharks to cover cost of Christmas




People in Staffordshire are being warned that unscrupulous lenders could try to cash in on the festive period as households continue to deal with rising bills.


Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards service is working with the Illegal Money Lending team (IMLT) to combat the growth in illegal lending. A new social media campaign, #SleighNoToLoanSharks, is being launched to alert people about the dangers of using loan sharks in the run up to Christmas.


Loan sharks target vulnerable people seeking credit and trapping them into a cycle of debt with exorbitant interest rates and threats of violence.


Figures released by the IMLT show that nearly one in ten of those who borrowed money from loan sharks last year did so to cover the costs of Christmas. More than half of victims (52%) supported by the IMLT in the first half of 2022 had borrowed from a loan shark to pay for essentials such as food and fuel.


Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said: “With many families facing extra financial pressures and the rising cost of living, it’s even more important that we continue to take a stand against loan sharks.


“Loan-sharking is a terrible crime that affects many of our communities and we work closely with our partners to tackle it. These criminals usually prey on vulnerable residents and often intimidate, threaten and trap victims in a cycle of fear and violence. They may seem friendly at first but borrowing from them can have serious consequences.


“There are well established organisations that can provide access to affordable loans such as credit unions, and I would urge anyone struggling financially to consider getting in touch with them. Our “Here to Help” campaign and dedicated webpages at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/heretohelp also has advice and support on things like, paying bills, food and essentials, help with childcare and how to help others.”


Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are doing untold damage in local communities, and we must do all we can to stop them.


“Our campaign aims to break this cycle by helping people understand the risks of loan sharks, what they can do if they feel threatened and where they can turn for help and support. “The Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline offers confidential advice and support to anyone affected by illegal money lending. We know how stressful and frightening this experience can be. We can give you support on how to deal with this problem and help find a way forward.”


Staffordshire County Council’s ‘Here to help’ campaign and dedicated webpages also have information and advice with things like paying bills, food and essentials, funding for childcare, staying warm and helping others.


The following safety tips can help protect people from loan sharks:

  • If Struggling for money, remember, lone sharks are not your friends. Think very carefully before taking out a loan and consider other options.

  • Make sure to protect your information from criminals. Never send money, credit card details, online account information and personal documents to anyone you don’t know.

  • Always check your lender is genuine. Do your research first and check the firm or person you're dealing with is listed on the Financial Services Register.

  • When exploitative loan sharks are preying on hardship, it’s vital for people to know there are ethical, local, not-for-profit alternatives available. Other community lenders like credit unions who are mostly not for profit can be found on https://www.findingfinance.org.uk/.


Anyone worried about a friend or family member who is being taken advantage of by a loan shark should contact Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 confidential helpline on 0300 5552222 or visitwww.stoploansharks.co.uk.

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