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Police Warning Against Loan Sharks This Christmas

Detectives are warning the public to stay away from illegal money lenders, commonly known as loan sharks, especially as the Christmas season approaches. While these lenders may appear helpful at first, they charge exorbitant interest rates, leading to serious consequences for borrowers.

One of the major concerns with borrowing from loan sharks is that their debts cannot be legally enforced or reclaimed through the courts. As a result, many loan sharks resort to intimidation, threats, and even violence to ensure repayment, leaving victims scared and unsure of where to seek help.

Illegal money lending can take various forms, ranging from small-scale lenders to organised crime groups targeting financially vulnerable individuals. Research conducted by the Centre for Social Justice reveals that while anyone can fall prey to loan sharks, most victims already face a variety of intersecting disadvantages. These include low incomes, reliance on benefits, living in rented housing, poor health, existing debts to authorised creditors, and, in some cases, being homeowners with middling incomes facing business expenses or cash flow problems.

Detective Inspector Rob Brown of the Economic Crime Team emphasises the unscrupulous nature of loan sharks who exploit financial vulnerabilities. He warns that loan sharks are increasingly operating online to entice and exploit victims, and some even facilitate the finances of organised crime groups. DI Brown urges individuals to think twice before purchasing counterfeit goods, as they may unknowingly be financing serious and organised crime.

DI Brown further advises anyone approached by someone offering to lend them money to reject the offer, regardless of how small the amount may be. He explains that beneath the surface, the lender’s intentions are murky, and victims often find themselves trapped in a cycle of escalating debt. Loan sharks may demand payments in various forms, including drug deliveries, referrals, or even sexual favours.

Merseyside Police is committed to deterring individuals from accepting loans from illegal money lenders. However, support is available for those who have already fallen into debt with loan sharks. DI Brown advises victims or those concerned about someone else to seek help from organisations such as the Illegal Money Lending Team, Economic Crime Team at Merseyside Police, or Citizens Advice. Reporting loan sharks is the first step, and it can be done anonymously through the 24-hour Stop Loan Sharks helpline, online report forms, or text messages.

Stop Loan Sharks, an organization dedicated to investigating and prosecuting illegal money lenders, offers support for borrowers. They have developed an app that provides contact information to report loan sharks, as well as resources to assist victims of illegal money lending. The app also offers advice on identifying the signs of loan sharks, such as offering cash loans without paperwork, charging excessive interest, using benefits or bank cards as collateral, and resorting to threatening behaviour or violence.

For those who suspect they may be victims of loan sharks or are concerned about someone else, the Stop Loan Sharks helpline is available 24/7. The organisation also provides support through email, online report forms, and a Live Chat feature on their website. The Stop Loan Sharks app can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android devices, offering a convenient way to access information and support.

If you have any information regarding illegal money lending, you can contact the Merseyside Police social media desk, call 101, or report anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers UK.

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