PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR TENANTS TARGETED IN WEST MIDLANDS LOAN SHARK AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which works in partnership with local Trading Standards departments around the country to tackle loan sharks, is launching an awareness campaign to reach private rented sector tenants throughout July 2014. In the West Midlands the campaign will be run in partnership with Homestamp, a partnership consortium with a direct interest in private sector housing, comprising of Local Authorities, the private rented sector, Universities, Police and Fire Services.
Whilst anyone can be a victim of a loan shark, this month’s campaign will focus on helping those who live in private rented accommodation. These tenants might not be aware of support that is available to them from local authorities and charities if they are struggling to make ends meet. Quite often councils, agencies and Credit Unions can provide bonds or deposits but few people realise this and can get into debt to move home and start their new tenancy on a back-foot. The team is advising people never to use a loan shark for rent or a deposit, and fear that this is a currently hidden and under-reported problem. The team will also be working with private landlords to help them provide support and advice to any tenants who have got into financial difficulty with loan sharks prior to taking on a tenancy.
In the West Midlands, the team is working with Homestamp, to:
- Put articles in local newsletters aimed at landlords and tenants
- Advertise at customer service centres where Housing benefit forms are collected
- Run a poster awareness raising campaign in hostels
- Use DVDs to educate hostel residents about the dangers of illegal money lenders
- Train homeless teams, hostel staff and Housing Benefit sections so they can spot the telltale signs of someone who is a loan shark victim
- Launch “A Free Guide to Renting Private Property” to ensure that tenants know their rights and have all the information they need to avoid getting into unmanageable debt, especially with illegal money lenders.
Illegal money lending is an issue all across the country with an estimated 310,000 individuals affected.
Loan sharks will typically appear friendly at first but their behaviour can quickly change with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts. They operate illegally, without the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority and rarely give paperwork, keeping borrowers in the dark as to how much they are paying back. Some will even take items such as passports as security or even bank cards with the PIN in order to withdraw directly from borrowers’ accounts.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “The process of moving home can be expensive and loan sharks take advantage of this, striking just when people feel under real financial pressure. It is crucial that people know that, even if they’re renting privately, there is help available to them if they get into financial difficulty. Loan sharks are illegal, predatory and should never be considered as an option.
National Trading Standards are committed to tackling loan sharks and we look forward to making a real difference for private tenants across the country over the next month. If anyone suspects an individual of loan sharking or has been a victim themselves then I would urge them to call the hotline or email email@example.com.”
Mary Latham, Chair of Homestamp, said: ”It is important to get this message out to both landlords and tenants and to ensure that they know how to safely and anonymously report suspected Loan Sharks who are operating in their area. Many people live in fear of these people and it is that fear that enables Loan Sharks to thrive. Homestamp partners are happy to help to remove the fear and prevent these people from thriving in our communities.”
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said “During the month our aim as a national team is to make a difference locally. Whether a community is urban, inner city or rural we understand that loan sharks lend to those in private, social and council tenancies and indeed home owners. Our aim is to tackle any current illegal money lending issues whilst sending a preventative message to all – loan sharks are not a safe or cheap way to borrow money, even if you’re doing so to move home.
We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark, or knows of someone who has to contact us in the strictest confidence on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous if they wish.”
For updates on the campaign visit www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject or twitter: @loansharknews
TO REPORT A LOAN SHARK:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline: 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 600003
Private message on: www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
New crackdown on loan sharks offers lifeline to private housing tenants - Birmingham Mail - 6 July 2014