Crackdown on loan sharks who prey on poorest people in Lincolnshire
Specialist investigators have declared war on illegal loan sharks who are preying on vulnerable families in Lincolnshire.
The national Illegal Money Lending Team is parachuting into the county after a plea for help from council officials.
It follows reports that local families have been threatened with violence over the money they owe.
Sharks are unlicensed moneylenders who charge very high interest rates.
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According to the Government, rates as high as 131,000 per cent APR have been recorded.
The thugs rarely offer paperwork so those who borrow from them are kept in the dark about how much they still owe.
The sharks have taken items such as passports as security.
In Lincoln, they even seize bank cards so they can intercept benefit payments to customers.
But people are being urged not to suffer in silence.
The City of Lincoln Council says all cases will be investigated and illegal lenders could face up to two years behind bars.
Councillor Brent Charlesworth, charged with tackling poverty in Lincoln, said: "We want to get illegal loan sharks off the streets and make it very uncomfortable indeed for them. I want to create a climate where these guys think twice about knocking on doors.
“We are sending the message out that if they try to pull people in, we will hit back.”
The England Illegal Money Lending Team is funded by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.
It works in partnership with Trading Standards officers across the country to investigate and prosecute illegal money lenders.
The national team is joining forces with Lincolnshire Trading Standards and others for a month of action across the county which takes place this September.
Officials are door-knocking in St Giles, Lincoln, to gather intelligence and offer advice. This will run from September 3 to 7.
The City of Lincoln Council wants to help people avoid illegal loan sharks as part of its Bee Better Off campaign to help the city’s worse off.
It is also promoting savvier borrowing via Lincolnshire Credit Union and is calling for the end of extortionate legal pay day loans.
To report a loan shark, call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222, text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003. Alternatively, you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org