Milton Keynes Council visited local communities to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and the serious threats they pose during a ‘bite back’ week of action.
The council’s Community Safety team worked in partnership with the Illegal Money Lending Team, Loan Smart Charity, Thames Valley Police and SOFEA Community Larders on the engagement activities in Milton Keynes.
MK Council and its partners visited four of the city’s community food larders across three days this week, raising awareness and answering local peoples’ questions.
The local campaign aimed to encourage people to avoid using loan sharks and report the crime if they've been a victim. It also focused on informing people on the help available if they're struggling with debt and safer ways to borrow money.
Cllr Lauren Townsend, MK Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Community Safety said: “Anyone can be a victim of a loan shark – your family, friends, neighbours and even you. It’s not always easy to spot a loan shark as they come in all shapes and sizes and will at first appear friendly, just part of the community. It’s when you can’t pay that they will turn on you. Engagement activities in the heart of our local communities are vital to raise awareness, and I’d like to thank the council’s Community Safety team and our local partners for their efforts.”
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We know that illegal money lenders operate in all communities and that they exploit the most vulnerable people. So we’re looking to raise people’s awareness of the problem and let them know where to go for help and support though this campaign. Anyone who is struggling with money or debt problems should contact the Citizens Advice for guidance and support. You can report loan sharks to us in confidence and we'll take action against them."
Peter Reynolds, Trustee of the Loan Smart charity said: “Over 300,000 UK households are borrowing from loan sharks and one of the reasons people often give for using such lenders is that they did not know that the person or company was unregulated and therefore illegal. The Loan Smart charity encourages everyone to think before they borrow and to only ever borrow from an authorised lender. We’re delighted to be in Milton Keynes helping to spread this message and highlighting the dangers of illegal money lending.”
All money lenders require proper permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to lend money and those who do not are acting illegally. The national team continues to investigate and prosecute loan sharks. These are some of the warning signs to watch out for that a lender is acting illegally:
Giving you no paperwork or agreement on a loan
Refusing to give you information about the loan
Keeping items until the debt is paid, such as your mobile phone or cash card
Taking things from you if you don't pay on time
Adding more interest or charges so the debt never goes down
Using intimidation or violence if you don't pay
Pretends to be your friend but turns nasty when money is owed
If you or someone you know has been affected by illegal money lending and needs help, call the 24/7 confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday at www.stoploansharks.co.uk.
If you're considering taking out a loan, check out www.loansmart.org.uk to see if your lender is authorised and don't fall prey to illegal money lending.
The Stop Loan Sharks App is free to download on both iOS and Android devices from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.