A loan shark preying on the most desperate and vulnerable people in our society has set up in Grantham.
That is the warning issued by Trading Standards through its special “Illegal Money Lending Team” set up to counter loan sharks.
The team has sent notices out to organisations in Grantham warning them: “a suspected illegal money lender – a loan shark – may be operating around the Grantham area; in particular working from the town centre”.
Grantham Foodbank, an organisation which provides food to those in crisis, was one of the organisations warned of the threat.
Brian Hanbury of Grantham Foodbank said: “It is vital people stay away from loan sharks. Underground lending can be very, very dangerous and will bring more pain to an already painful situation.
“This often leads to violence and threats and needs to be eradicated in our town.”
The Foodbank is already putting information into parcels of food to warn people about the dangers of loan sharks.
When asked if there are people in Grantham susceptible to loan sharks, Mr Hanbury said: “Unfortunately the answer is a big yes.
“We have two wards – the Harrowby ward and the Earlsfield ward – which are deemed to be near the top for deprivation. We are estimating there are almost 6,000 of our neighbours in and around town that struggle to make ends meet.”
Mr Hanbury added: “Our hope is that the intervention of food parcels prevents the need to access high rated loan systems, both legal and illegal, giving families a breathing space to bring their finances under control.”
Trading Standards have seen loan sharks charge as much as 131,000 per cent APR. The body is pushing an awareness campaign in Grantham and district.
Trading Standards warn that loan sharks:
*Start out being friendly – they are often heard of via friends. It is only when repayments are missed their behaviour changes.
*Offer little or no paperwork surrounding the deal.
*Increase the debt or add additional amounts.
*Refuse to tell the borrower the interest rate, how much they still owe or how long they will be paying back.
*Take items as security. This may include passports, driving licences or even bank or post office cards with the PIN to withdraw directly from borrowers’ accounts.
*Resort to intimidation, threats or violence.
Richard Wyles, South Kesteven District Council’s head of finance, said: “We would always encourage our residents who find themselves in a position of requiring additional funding to consider taking out borrowing from only reputable and established companies, for example, high street banks.”