Project to stop Wisbech families from loan sharks

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OFFICERS from Cambridgeshire County Council and the Illegal Money Lending Team are to launch a project designed to stop families in Wisbech from being bitten by loan sharks.

This project is a result of the Cambridgeshire’s Child Poverty Strategy which brings key organisations together to break the cycle of child poverty across the county.

The launch of the Financial Wellbeing project in Wisbech marks the start of work in this area with a number of joint activities planned. The work of Cambridgeshire County Council is being supported by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, working in partnership with local Trading Standards officers to bring illegal money lenders to justice in the County. The Council has worked closely with community based teams at Fenland District Council to help maximise impact of the initiative.

This specialist team will be launching a crackdown by investigating reports of illegal money lending and prosecuting offenders through the courts.

In the past the Team have secured convictions for drugs offences, blackmail, violence, rape and other offences linked to illegal money lending. They have already secured more than 190 prosecutions which have led to 117 years worth of prison sentences, written off almost £40million worth of illegal debt and helped over 16,000 victims.

Nationally there are an estimated 310,000 households borrowing from illegal money lenders, more commonly known as loan sharks. With a lack of paperwork, these criminals keep their victims in the dark about how much they owe and will charge exorbitant interest rates – in some cases in excess of 130,000% APR.

Loan sharks operate illegally; making their victims lives a misery. They often trap people into spiralling debt and resort to the most extreme methods such as violence, threats or intimidation to pressure victims into making repayments.

Cambridgeshire County Council will be hosting a launch event on Tuesday, January 10. This launch will be attended by staff from various local organisations to enable them to learn more about the Child Poverty Strategy, the impact illegal lending can have on individuals and the support that is available if people believe a loan shark is operating in their community.

The Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards, Councillor Mathew Shuter, said: “The Child Poverty Strategy is bringing together organisations to help families break the cycle of poverty across Cambridgeshire. I am really pleased that this work is being supported by the Illegal Money Lending Team who will ensure that loan sharks cannot prey on vulnerable families in Cambridgeshire.”

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal lenders not only rip people off with extortionate rates of interest but resort to the most despicable methods to enforce their debts. We are sending out a clear message in Cambridgeshire that this will not be tolerated.”

“We would urge anyone affected by illegal money lending to call our confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 as we can help.”

To report a loan shark: Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222 Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003 E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

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