LOAN sharks are continuing to target “petrified” victims in some of the most vulnerable communities, a Leeds-based debt charity has warned.
Welfare reforms and escalating personal debts are leaving vulnerable people at risk of falling prey to illegal money lenders, according to Richard Campbell-Marrin, the manager of Ebor Garden Advice Centre in Burmantofts, Leeds.
The service helps hundreds of people in the Leeds city region every year with debt and benefits advice.
Mr Campbell-Marrin, said: “With loan sharks, the problem is not going away it’s increasing. The latest problem we are finding with loan sharks is they are continuing to target deprived areas, particularly in communities where English is not the first language and people are vulnerable to being targeted.
“People pay extortionate interest rates of thousands of per cent and if the lender cannot get payment they will start to intimidate relatives. People are absolutely petrified. Personal debt is escalating and is being compounded by welfare reforms, the benefits cap and bedroom tax.
“They are all reducing incomes and people are having to find alternative ways to survive. And it is survival. People don’t turn to illegal money lenders because they want to, it is often a last resort for survival. We hear about people who can’t eat, can’t pay for fuel in winter.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team – run by Birmingham Council Trading Standards department – was set up in 2004 and has been operating in Leeds area since 2007.
A progress report on the team to this Wednesday’s meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board states that work has been carried out with West Yorkshire Police’s crime prevention team to start to scope the problem of illegal lending further in Yorkshire. It states interviews with inmates at HMP Leeds Prison hub suggested illegal lending was common in many deprived communities, with single mothers particularly at risk.
Tony Quigley, the team’s head of service, pledged to work with Leeds City Council and police to prevent loan sharks operating. He added: “Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which is unfortunately happening amongst many communities across the country.”
PLEA TO REPORT DODGY LENDERS
WEST Yorkshire Police is urging people to report suspected loan sharks.
Crime prevention officer Chris Joyce, said: “The public are urged to avoid and report lenders who offer little or no paperwork, are unclear on the terms of the loan, increase the debt or add additional amounts at random, take items as securityincluding passports and bank cards, or resort to threats, violence or intimidation.” Contact The Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 5552222 or at www.stoploansharks.uk