Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service is urging victims of loan sharks to come forward, and has reassured them they can do so in the strictest confidence.
An estimated 310,000 households in the UK borrow from loan sharks every year, many over Christmas – but a relatively small loan can soon spiral into massive repayments.
Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service has joined forces with The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), who specialise in investigating and prosecuting loan sharks, to appeal to victims to report them.
It’s part of IMLT’s ‘Why I Borrowed’ campaign which tells the real-life stories of victims.
A recent IMLT survey revealed over 15% of loan shark victims met the lender in the workplace while over 60% were in a state of worry, stress, depression or severe anxiety.
Of those surveyed 46% said they had been verbally abused and/or physically threatened with some contemplating suicide.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharking can have such a detrimental impact on our communities; it is a crime that often goes unreported because victims are scared of the repercussions or they don’t realise that what is happening to them is illegal.
“We want to reassure victims that they are not the ones breaking the law and that help and support is available.”
Steve Gardner, Inventions Manager at Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, said: “Illegal moneylending all too often goes unreported. Its true impact on communities is difficult to know as intimidation and fear are a part of the lender’s tactics, and they exploit the most vulnerable, trapping them into a cycle of debt. Devon Somerset and Torbay trading Standards work closely with the England Illegal Moneylending Team (IMLT) to bring these criminals to justice. If you or someone you know has been the victim of an illegal money lender you can seek help by calling 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk, anonymously and in confidence.”
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