ELLESMERE Port residents are being warned to steer clear of loan sharks in the run-up to Christmas.
The Trading Standards North West illegal money lending team is urging people not to get involved with these criminal lenders and to speak out if you think you are already involved.
A recent report shows 20% of people turn to loan sharks to pay for Christmas.
Illegal lenders prey on vulnerable people, often those who would struggle to access mainstream credit.
They often trap people in a spiral of debt with extortionate rates of interest and then resort to the most extreme methods to demand repayment.
Typically, a loan shark may:
Offer little or no paperwork.
Refuse to tell the borrower how much they still owe, when they will finish paying, or what the interest rate is.
Increase the debt or add additional amounts.
Take items ‘as security’. This could include passports, driving licences or bank cards.
Resort to intimidation, threats and violence to enforce the loan.
Tony Quigley, head of the Trading Standards North West illegal money lending team, said “Illegal lenders are a scourge on our communities, leaving people living in fear and misery.
“They prey on vulnerable people charging often exorbitant rates of interest and resorting to extreme methods to enforce their debts.
“At Christmas in particular we would like to make clear that illegal lenders are not a community service and should never be used, not even as a last resort.”
If you have borrowed from an illegal lender or know someone who has, call 0300 555 2222.