Bishop Auckland open day aims to help prevent illegal lending

TODAY: an open day, organised in conjunction with Prince Bishops Credit Union, will be held at Bishop Auckland.

Money retrieved from convicted loan sharks is being used to help raise awareness of the dangers in borrowing from illegal money lenders.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team, who have previously written off £63.5 million worth of illegal debt are working in partnership with Prince Bishops Credit Union to help residents in the Bishop Auckland area of County Durham avoid turning to loan sharks.

On Thursday 28th July, the New Prince Bishops Bank Shop in Bishop Auckland will host an open day, available to all residents looking to save with a safe credit union as opposed to using illegal money lenders.

Residents attending the open day will be offered an incentive, all of which is funded using proceeds of crime money taken from convicted loan sharks. The first 50 new members who open a new Credit Union Savings Account and save for 10 weeks consecutively will be credited £25 from the team.

The open day will run from 10:30am until 3pm at 22 Finkle Street, Bishop, Auckland, DL14 7PL with Sid the Shark the Illegal Money Lending Team Mascot making an appearance.

Lesley Richardson from Prince Bishop Credit Union said “The work that we are doing in County Durham and the feedback that we are receiving from our partners, associates and members is that the Community Bank is an essential service, vital to the financial wellbeing of the community”

Parents are encouraged to open savings account for their children at the open day, with support and advice available on how you can prepare for your child’s future.

Cllr Brian Stephens, portfolio holder for neighbourhoods and local partnerships at Durham County Council, said: “Loan sharks cause great harm with their activities – more so because they tell their victims they are helping them when they are actually hurting them financially

“The terms they offer are astronomical and so unfair that loans are paid back several times over and rarely, if ever, paid off”

“In County Durham we work to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks operating here and support the Bite Back weeks of action delivered across our area.

“We would encourage residents in financial difficulties to seek advice and look for alternatives such as the Credit Unions which operate across the county.

“If you suspect that you or someone you know has a loan from, or owes money to, a loan shark, you can report them by phoning the confidential hotline 0300 555 2222.”

It has been estimated that 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark.

These illegal money lenders usually appear friendly at first, but swiftly trap their clients who have borrowed money from them into spiralling debt.

As the debts can’t legally be enforced many lenders will resort to the most extreme and callous methods to enforce repayment including threats, violence and intimidation.

Paperwork is rarely offered so victims are often in the dark as to how much they are actually paying. Exorbitant extra amounts and interest are added at random- the highest interest seen by an illegal lender was equivalent to 131,000% APR. In some cases the loan sharks have been known to take items as security including passports, driving licences or even bank or post office cards with the PIN in order to withdraw directly from borrowers’ accounts.

Tony Quigley Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team said “Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities. These lenders may appear to be offering a community service but borrowers are often forced to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford. Many are subjected to threats, violence or other callous enforcement methods. We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222, as we can help”

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 347 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 227 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £63.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 25,575 people.