Stamp on loan sharks

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A CAMPAIGN is under way to hit loan sharks hard, and it is being backed by East Renfrewshire council.

The campaign – Stop Loan Sharks – has been launched by Cosla and aims to encourage people to report suspected loan sharks, to raise awareness of this crime and to prevent fold from falling foul of these illegal money lenders.

The practise sees criminals loaning money at excessive rates of repayment and adding other charges whenever they like.

The victim ends up paying much more than the original sum borrowed and this causes them to spiral into ever-increasing debt.

If someone borrows £100, they can find themselves owing £125 a mere one week later and this interest rate grows at £25 each week.

Repayments at £30 per week means that it will take 14 weeks to pay off the original £100 borrowed with a net repayment of £420.

With the difficulty to repay comes intimidation and threats of violence as the initial friendly, helping attitude of the money lender quickly changes.

This can turn borrowers to crime as a desperate measure to pay back the loans.

Councillor Mary Montague, convener of community services and community safety, is East Renfrewshire council’s representative on Cosla’s consumer protection task group.

Councillor Montague said: “We understand how tough times are for many people in our communities.

“And with the changes being made to welfare benefits from this month, money may be getting increasingly tighter with some finding it a real struggle to budget just for the basics.

“The fear is as a result, more and more people find themselves being drawn to illegal loan sharks.

But this can wreck the lives of the victims who do so.

“No matter how desperately a person feels they need to borrow money, they should never borrow from loan sharks.”

Councillor Montague emphasised that help and advice was available for anyone who is facing a struggle to balance their budget, including ERC’s money advice unit.

It is willing to offer people free, confidential, impartial and independent debt advice.

You can call the unit free on 0800 052 1023, quoting money advice,or e-mail money @eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk.

You can also text ‘money’ to Freetext 80800, adding your name, or contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Barrhead on 0141 881 2032.

Credit unions can also be an alternative to illegal loans.

To report a loan shark in confidence, call 0800 074 0878 or text 60003.

More information can be had at www.stoploansharks.org.uk.