Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and to share the message to never borrow money from them.
BHT, in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team who work with local Trading Standards departments to tackle loan sharks, are driving the message as part of Loan Shark Month which runs throughout July.
The housing and homelessness charity will be hosting a range of events over the month from drop in events where people can talk to the Illegal Money Lending Team, BHT advisers and the Credit Union, training events for BHT staff and clients and leaflet drops to BHT clients and residents.
Elaine Sammarco, Brighton Housing Advice Manager said: “Brighton has a lot of characteristics that have made it a target to loan sharks such as thousands of people working on zero hour contracts in the city and thousands more earning just the minimum wage.
“Our housing specialists come into daily contact with people struggling to keep a roof over their head.
“Over 573 landlord possession claims were made to the Brighton County Court last year – that’s over 47 a month and over 168 mortgage possession claims were made to the Brighton County Court.
“Illegal money lending is an issue across the country with the Illegal Money Lending Team estimating that 310,000 individuals are affected and Brighton isn’t any different.
“Research from the Illegal Money Lending Team shows that loan sharks will often target people who are on low incomes, as well as those who may struggle to obtain credit from legitimate sources.
“Our campaign is aimed at reaching out to these people and making them aware of the support that is available.
“Loan sharks will typically appear friendly at first but their behaviour can quickly change with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts.”
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 and 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.”
The charity are also campaigning online and are asking people to sign up to the thunderclap here.
Throughout July, BHT will be working with the Illegal Money Lending Team to make people aware of the signs of illegal lending and the financial alternatives that are available as well as giving people the helpline number if they need safe and confidential advice and support.
To report a loan shark: