PCCs and Parliamentarians warned of the dangers of illegal money lending in the lead up to Christmas
Fuel and food are amongst the most common reasons why people are borrowing from illegal money lenders, revealed an expert from the England Illegal Money Lending Team at a briefing session for Parliamentarians and Police and Crime Commissioners held today, Tuesday, 13 December.
APCC Economic & Cyber Crime Lead, Avon & Somerset PCC Mark Shelford, brought together PCCs and Parliamentarians to hear from experts about the concerning number of victims borrowing from illegal money lenders. Attendees were briefed on how to identify illegal money lending in their local areas and signpost victims to support by the England Illegal Money Lending Team, as well as an overview of the credible alternatives available for people in need from ethical lender Fair for You.
Although people can be affected at any time of year, illegal money lending is a particular danger during the Christmas period.
APCC Economic & Cyber Crime Lead Mark Shelford, said: “December is a high-risk time for this type of crime and I was pleased to see so many PCCs and Parliamentarians join us for this very timely and important event to put illegal money lending on the radar so that we can ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent vulnerable people falling victim to these manipulative scammers.”
Catherine Wohlers of the England Illegal Money Lending Team additionally warned of the pressure that Christmas can have on people, noting that last year 10 per cent of victims had borrowed from illegal money lenders during the festive period.
On the impact of the rising cost of living, she said: “What we are seeing for the first time this year is people borrowing from a loan shark to fund food and fuel, whereas historically it had been more for everyday living expenses. It’s quite hard to predict the full impact, as it takes people on average three years to report an illegal lender.”
As well as illuminating statistics about the scale of the problem and how police forces can help tackle it, attendees also heard about some of the credible alternatives available to people in need. Earlier this year, charity and ethical lender Fair for You launched a successful initiative with the supermarket Iceland to provide ethical credit for people struggling to afford groceries. The scheme has had great social impact, with users reporting a reduction in the use of loan sharks by 80 per cent, with 57 per cent feeling ‘less stressed, anxious or depressed’ about their financial situation.
While the initiative has been successful for users, Fair for You Chief Executive Simon Dukes stressed the scale of the problem: “The demand for what we are doing is growing and we are certainly struggling to keep up with that demand. Loan sharks are everywhere and increasingly public on social media.”
Pledging to continue working with partners to tackle this crime, APCC Economic & Cyber Crime Lead Mark Shelford, said: “Today was a great opportunity to get experts and those who can make a difference at the table to discuss how we can better support victims and stop loan sharks from operating in our communities. I hope my PCC colleagues and Parliamentarians continue to support us in raising awareness of this crime so that we can effectively identify illegal money lenders, safeguard victims and stop loan sharks from operating in our communities.”