The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is working in partnership with Tendring District Council to deliver a new campaign to raise awareness of loan sharks in Harwich and Dovercourt.
The ‘bite back’ campaign involves an anti-loan shark charter event, police training, loan shark quiz and school sessions with mascot Sid the Shark.
On Monday, September 17, Tendring District Council will join a range of community based organisations to sign the new zero tolerance pledge towards loan sharks.
The charter aims to bring organisations together to make a statement that loan sharks will not be tolerated in the local community and send a clear message that they are united in a zero tolerance approach to illegal money lending.
Other work will include police and debt advocates being trained on how to spot loan sharks in the community and support victims.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:
“We are pleased to be working with our partners across Tendring as part of the bite back campaign to warn residents about loan sharks and signpost victims to the support outlets available.
“Loan sharks are notorious for preying on vulnerable people in financial hardship. They charge exorbitant interest rates and use threats and intimidation to enforce their illegal debts.
“We urge victims to contact us in confidence on 0300 555 2222 and help us bring these unscrupulous lenders to justice.”
IMLT mascot Sid the Shark will pay children a visit at Two Village and Harwich Community primary schools next week to talk about loan sharks and hand out literature to parents.
Residents are also encouraged to complete a loan shark educational quiz to win prizes at Asda Harwich on Tuesday, September 18 between 10am and 1pm and Harwich Market on Friday, September 21, between 10am and 2pm.
Lynda McWilliams, Tendring District Council Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said:
“Tackling the issue of loan sharks is important to us as one of our priorities is supporting the vulnerable in our communities.
“We are keen to prevent these unscrupulous people from preying on those struggling to make ends meet, and raising awareness is a key way of stopping people from falling into a vicious downward spiral of debt caused by illegal money lending.
“We also have a role to play as a social housing provider, and that is why I am delighted to be supporting this initiative and to sign Tendring District Council up to the charter, pledging zero tolerance on loan sharks.”
Harwich and Dovercourt residents can get free, confidential, and impartial advice on a range of issues including housing, benefits and welfare at drop-in sessions held by Citizens Advice at Harwich Job Centre.
Sessions are held on Monday and Tuesday between 9.30am and 12.30pm, and no appointment is needed.
You may also access advice and information at any time on the Citizens Advice website.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
Private message the team on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject