It’s the time of year when people are most likely to feel the pinch and turn to loan sharks to stave off Christmas money worries.
The festive season can be a stressful time for many people especially for those on a tight budget who want to make Christmas extra special.
Unfortunately it’s also prime opportunity for illegal money lenders to prey on vulnerable victims when cash is tight and mislead them into thinking it is the only solution.
To combat the problem, housing association Riverside has teamed up with Prima and St Leonard’s Community Centre in Bootle to raise awareness of the risks of turning to unscrupulous loan sharks so no one falls victim to their tricks.
Posters with the telephone number to report loan sharks are blazoned on buses and stencil prints are being jet washed onto the footpaths in key locations where people are likely to be targeted.
Schoolchildren from Sir Thomas Gray and All Saint’s primary schools will be given presentations on the perils of using loan sharks.
Dean Butterworth, Riverside’s Regional Director Liverpool City Region, said: “Christmas can be stressful for many people who worry about paying for presents, food and decorations, and feel the pressure to spend more than they can afford.
“It can feel like an easy solution to turn to loan sharks however they may not realise the extortionate interest rates making it impossible for them to pay back. It’s important that residents stay away from loan sharks and only borrow from responsible lenders such as a credit union.”
The project has been funded using proceeds of crime money seized from convicted loan sharks.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are ruthless criminals who exploit some of the most vulnerable and often use intimidation and violence to fleece their victims.
“At this time of the year especially, residents may be tempted to turn to loan sharks but our message is clear – what may seem like a small loan to pay for gifts or just to tide you over, could end up costing you for years to come.
“This campaign is an excellent example of how partners in communities, such as Bootle, can work together across the area to stamp out fear and vulnerability caused by illegal money lenders.”
Anyone with information about loan sharking, or people who have fallen victim of loan sharks, is urged to contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222.