A campaign highlighting the risks posed by loan sharks, especially in the run-up to Christmas, rolled into the Bramley area of Leeds.
The event, which was part of the Opportunity Knox campaign developed by NHS Leeds, Leeds City Council and the West Leeds Debt Forum, highlighted the risks posed by illegal money lenders.
The cowboy lenders provide short term loans at a very high interest rate and failure to repay can lead to intimidation.
Now, the campaign group is urging local residents to fight back by reporting anyone they suspect of being a loan shark and by using trusted sources of financial support, such as Leeds City Credit Union.
Yesterday’s event, at the Fairfield Community Centre, was one of 12 taking place in west Leeds and follows on from a successful campaign raising awareness of financial support services as well as wider health and council facilities.
As well as advice on avoiding loan sharks, people attending the event were able to sample healthy soup with free recipes to take away and find out more information about jobs, training and benefits.
Tina Leslie, health improvement practitioner with the neighbourhoods team at NHS Leeds, said: “With finances under increasing strain, especially in the run up to Christmas, it can be appealing to take up the option of a short-term loan.
“However some unscrupulous money lenders then take advantage of the situation and often can resort to physical or mental intimidation to recover their money while charging very high interest rates.
“We now want people to fight back and report anyone they suspect of being a loan shark.
“By coming along to our events, local people can find out more about how they can prepare for any financial difficulties as well as finding out about a wider range of services available to them on their doorstep.”
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Ann Castle, who attended the event, said it was great to see the advice available for people on “how to manage their budget in difficult times”.
For confidential help and advice, contact the Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also text loan (space) shark (space) + your message to 60003.