Safer Stockport Partnership, which includes Stockport Council, the Police and Stockport Homes, has launched a week of action in Brinnington tackling illegal money lending as the hunting season for loan sharks begins.

An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark, and with Christmas approaching there are fears more people will be targeted – 20% of victims in previous cases took out a loan to pay for Christmas.

Paperwork is rarely offered so victims are often in the dark as to how much they are actually paying. Exorbitant extra amounts and interest are added at random, and in some cases the loan sharks have been known to take items as ‘security’ – including passports, driving licenses or even bank cards with the PIN in order to withdraw cash directly from borrower’s accounts.

During the week, representatives from the Safer Stockport Partnership and from Stockport Credit Union will visit schools, residential properties and community venues across Brinnington, to raise awareness of loan sharks and provide people with real alternatives and assistance if they are struggling financially.

In addition, there will be a loan shark poster competition for the three primary schools in Brinnington (years 5 & 6) and also Stockport Homes have very generously provided funding for an incentive to encourage residents to open a credit union account.

Detective Inspector Chris Mossop said:

“As Christmas approaches, and the winter months bring increased energy bills, many families may struggle to make ends meet. They may feel they have nowhere to turn, which is when the loan sharks usually begin to circle.

“Loan sharks usually appear friendly at first, but they quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt. As the debts can’t be legally enforced, many lenders will resort to the most extreme and callous methods to enforce repayment including threats, violence and intimidation.

“These people create fear and anxiety, and exploit vulnerable people with their savage debt collecting system. They often play a key role in funding organised crime groups and that is why we are working with partners to find them, and stop them.

“By taking these lenders off the streets we are effectively removing the funds they have to buy guns and drugs for other criminals. I want communities to know that they do not have to live in fear, and with their help, we can stop this criminality.”

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 300 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to almost 200 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £59 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 24,500 victims.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said:

“Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities. These lenders may appear to be offering a community service but borrowers are often forced to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford.

“Many are subjected to threats, violence or other callous enforcement methods. We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222, as we can help.”