In effort to end the trap of spiralling debt
Trading Standards officers at Wandsworth Council have signed up to a partnership designed to crack down on loan sharks operating in the borough.
Wandsworth is now working with the England Illegal Money Lending Team in a joint bid to bring illegal money lenders to justice.
The team, part of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills-funded Stop Loan Sharks project, was created to tackle loan sharking and any related activity - securing convictions for drugs offences, blackmail, violence, rape and other offences linked to the illegal lending.
It has secured more than 190 prosecutions, leading to custodial sentences in excess of 117 years, since the project piloted in 2004, as well as writing off almost £40m worth of illegal debt and helping over 16,000 victims.
Wandsworth Council's cabinet member for community safety, Councillor Jonathan Cook, said: "Loan sharks pose a serious threat - often trapping people into spiralling debt and making their victims lives a misery.
"In the more extreme cases they even resort to making threats, violence or intimidation to pressure victims into paying money back.
"The England Illegal Money Lending Team has established that nationally an estimated 310,000 households are borrowing money from illegal lenders, with some being charged a staggering 130,000% APR.
"This partnership is another step towards eliminating the threat they pose to residents and I would urge anyone who suspects that a member of their family, or a friend, is the victim of a loan shark to contact our Trading Standards officers and the Illegal Money Lending Team, in confidence, so they can investigate."
Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: "Illegal lenders not only rip people off with extortionate rates of interest but resort to the most despicable methods to enforce their debts. We are sending out a clear message that this will not be tolerated.
"We would urge anyone affected by illegal money lending to call our confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 as we can help."
Alternatively, residents can report concerns by texting 'loan shark + your message' to 60003, emailing email@example.com, or visit www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks or www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
January 16, 2012