Birmingham Markets events warn of loan shark danger

By on 14/02/2014 in News

An awareness campaign about the dangers of loan sharks, has taken place in Birmingham. 

The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which is hosted by Birmingham City Council
joined up with Birmingham's Financial Inclusion Partnership and the Bullring Indoor Market to
host awareness events in December and January.

Both events were funded with proceeds of crime money taken from convicted loan sharks.
Representatives from the team, were on hand to offer information and advice
on the dangers of loan sharks whilst handing out 'cool tips' leaflets signposting to other local
organisations which can help families in difficulty.

In December a grotto was held at front of the Bullring Indoor Market giving families a chance to meet Father Christmas and receive a small gift. The grotto was free to give the opportunity for those on low incomes to take part and parents were encouraged to bring their own camera or mobile phone to take their own pictures.

At both events, families we're encouraged to take part in a treasure hunt competition, testing their knowledge of illegal money lending. The lucky winner was Amie Ricketts aged 25 from Aston, who was presented with an Ipad today.
 
An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark.

Loan sharks usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt. As the debts can't legally be enforced many lenders will resort to the most extreme and callous methods to enforce repayment including threats, violence and intimidation.

Paperwork is rarely offered so victims are often in the dark as to how much they are actually paying.  Exorbitant extra amounts and interest are added at random- the highest interest seen by an illegal lender was equivalent to 131,000% APR. In some cases the loan sharks have been known to take items as security including passports, driving licences or even bank or post office cards with the PIN in order to withdraw directly from borrowers' accounts.

Councillor Barbara Dring, Chair of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee at Birmingham City Council, said “Loan sharks target those who are struggling financially, and trap them in spiralling debt. They control borrowers lives and leave them living each day in fear. Through events like this, we are able to raise awareness of this horrendous crime and prevent people from falling into a loan sharks trap. I would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to contact the illegal money lending team so action can be taken.” 

Jacqui Kennedy Director of Regulation and Enforcement at Birmingham City Council, who oversees the England Illegal Money Lending Team and Birmingham Markets, said: “Thanks to everyone who took part in this competition and congratulations to Amie on winning. The events were a great way to engage with families to warn them about the dangers of loan sharks and show that there is help available. Loan sharks cause nothing but misery in our communities and we are continuing to stamp them out. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a loan shark, please call 0300 555 2222 in the strictest confidence, as we can help you.”

Amie Ricketts said “I've been going to the market every Saturday for years, to get fruit, vegetables and meat and find it really affordable. I was there with my children just before Christmas when we saw Santa and Sid the Shark, and decided to enter the competition.

“I was over the moon to win, as the iPad will help me look for long term employment. During the event I was able to find out more about the dangers of loan sharks and the great work that the England Illegal Money Lending Team does.”

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text 'loan shark + your message' to 60003
E-mailreportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

Ends

For more information contact Sarah-Jane Lynch, Illegal Money Lending Team communications officer, on 0121 693 1030 or 07881 617119 or email sarah-jayne.lynch@birmingham.gov.uk. To speak to the National Trading Standards Board with a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430 or pressoffice@tsi.org.uk.

Notes to editors

The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.

NTSB provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.

The Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams in England, Scotland and Wales.  The NTSB has responsibility for the England and Wales Illegal Money Lending Teams that are hosted by Birmingham City Council and Cardiff Council. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured  more than 300 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 190 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 people.

The Illegal Money Lending Teams in England and Wales work in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities in their related countries. They consist of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.

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