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An initiative to help victims of loan sharks bite back will be launched in Malton next week.

Yorkshire Housing has teamed up with the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and Community First Savings and Loans Credit Union to organise an interactive event to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

It will take place at Hope Central, Elim Ryedale Church, 62 – 64 Castlegate, Malton, YO17 7DZ on Tuesday 20 November between 1.30pm and 2.30pm.

Residents are being invited to come along and meet Sid the Shark, the national anti-loan shark mascot while getting a range of help, support and advice. Malton people can also open a savings account which will benefit from money seized from convicted loan sharks.

The campaign has come about as partners are concerned that vulnerable members of the community are at risk of falling victim to a loan shark.

With Christmas coming up it can be a difficult time to make financial ends meet. Many of us will have increased utility bills with the cold winter months and be gearing up for the season of gift-giving. Along with the increased cost of Christmas, ensuring priority bills are paid can be really difficult and this leaves us vulnerable to high-cost lending, including loan sharks.

Loan sharks are illegal money lenders who target people when they are at their most vulnerable. They may seem like a good option when you need money quickly or are having difficulties getting credit, but they can quickly become intimidating, threatening and your loan can spiral out of control. Loan sharks often target people during the Christmas period, when money may be tight.

At the event a short 15-minute film called ‘Landsharks’ will be screened (certificate 15), which recently won the Best UK Short Film Award at the Raindance Independent Film Festival, making it a potential qualifier for the BAFTAs and the Oscars. The film highlights the detrimental impact that loan sharks can have on the lives of their victims and helps to reinforce the message that unscrupulous lenders should be avoided at all costs.

As well as seeing the film, those attending can also meet with representatives of the Community First Savings and Loans Credit Union, to discuss the alternatives to high-cost lending and open a savings account. Those interested just need to bring along two pieces of ID and £1 to open an account. As long as they make another deposit of at least £1 within 28 days, they will be eligible for a £25 incentive, payable within 4-6 weeks. The offer is available for the first 50 people who attend. The money for this has been made available through assets seized from convicted loans sharks.

Victoria Cordingley, Yorkshire Housing benefit and money advice team leader, said: “We all need to be aware of the real danger of loan sharks. What can seem like an affordable, easily accessible loan can quickly spiral out of control. Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable and will intimidate, manipulate and trap people into a debt spiral. We want people to know what the risks are with loan sharks, what alternatives there are for managing their finances, and how they can avoid being exploited.

 

“If any Yorkshire Housing customers are struggling to make ends meet then our benefit and money advice team is here to offer support and help you take back control of your finances.”

An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said:“Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable people, charging exorbitant interest rates and using fear and intimidation to enforce their illegal debts.

 

“We work closely with Yorkshire Housing to prevent these unscrupulous people from preying on those struggling to make ends meet.

 

“Officers at our events can offer free and confidential advice on the next steps to take if you think you have been targeted by loan sharks. You can also report illegal lenders in confidence on our 24 hour hotline 0300 555 2222.”

To report a loan shark, call the 24 hour hotline on 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk. You can also complete a secure report form online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk.

If you are a Yorkshire Housing Customer you can contact the benefit and money advice team by calling 0345 366 4404 or via the website.