WITH Christmas and New Year creating a large hole in most pockets residents are being urged to think carefully before using money lending services.
England Illegal Money Lending Team, in partnership with West Mercia Police, Worcestershire Regulatory Services and Worcester City Council Community Safety Partnership, held an awareness day at the Tolly Centre, Worcester, in the run-up to Christmas to highlight the dangers of loan sharks.
Experts said loan sharks were notorious for their aggressive and intimidating methods in which they demand money back, after people come to them seeking financial help.
About 20 per cent of victims in past cases borrowed money during the festive period, and it is something the Illegal Money Lending Team are keen to cut down.
Tony Quigley, head of the 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 always urge people to steer clear of these criminals and look to safe and legal alternatives like Credit Unions.”
In the most severe cases there has been a reported kidnapping, a rape case and one man even had to pay back £90,000 over the course of 20 years, after borrowing just £250.
Sergeant Helen Wain, West Mercia Police, said: “Money is tight for many people, but loan sharks are criminals who target the most vulnerable in society.
“Victims are typically charged extortionate rates of interest which can lead them further and further into debt.
“Loan sharks – like their namesakes – can be dangerous and need to be avoided. We would always urge people to avoid getting into debt if possible, but if they really need to borrow money, there are safer, legitimate alternatives.”
Those who have been a victim of a loan shark or know of someone who has can call the specialist investigators on 0300 555 2222.