Crackdown on illegal loan sharks who make East Yorkshire families suffer
FAMILIES facing a tough Christmas financially are urged not to use loan sharks.
East Riding Council has teamed up with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to crack down on unregulated money lenders.
They say the risk is that people may take out what seems like a small loan to tide them over Christmas but it could cost them hefty repayments well into the new year.
The council has been running a six-month roadshow at its customer service centres and Citizens' Advice Bureaus warning people about loan sharks.
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Councillor Jackie Cracknell, cabinet portfolio holder for community partnerships, said: "The current financial climate is proving challenging for families and, as a result, people, through no fault of their own, may have become victims to the horrific tactics of loan sharks.
"Please do not suffer in silence, your problem can only be resolved by contacting the Illegal Money Lending Team."
The team says 20 per cent of victims had borrowed originally to pay for festivities.
Loan sharks rarely offer paperwork and are unclear on the terms of the loan, so borrowers do not know how much they are actually paying. Extra amounts and interest payments can be added at random.
The team has dealt with victims who have paid tens of thousands of pounds back on small loans over a number of years. Some have even been forced to hand over their bank card and their PIN so the loan shark will completely control their finances.
As the debts cannot legally be enforced, the lenders will often resort to threats, violence and other extreme methods to enforce repayment.
The team has investigated loan sharks and prosecuted them, including loan sharks who have threatened to harm victim's families and pets, throw acid into their face or burn down their homes.
They have also seen cases were violence has been used, including a victim who was kidnapped and attacked with a machete and a woman victim who was raped.
Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: "No matter how much you are struggling financially, loan sharks are not the answer. They are motivated only by their own greed and are not offering you a service.
"These criminals should always be avoided at all costs. They could easily ruin your Christmas and you could be subjected to years of harassment.
"We'd recommend credit unions as a safe, legal alternative."
Visit www.abcul.org for information on credit unions.
If you have been the victim of a loan shark, call 0300 555 2222 for advice.