Leading organisations have signed the loan sharks charter in an aim to help crack down on illegal money lending.
Loan sharks are illegal money lenders who charge very high interest rates. They operate without a licence, often targeting vulnerable people.
Durham County Council’s Durham Savers Project is working in partnership with Durham Constabulary, Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, NE First Credit Union, the Illegal Money Lending Team, the Area Action Partnerships, and Karbon Homes to highlight to members the risks of fraudulent lending and highlighting the support available to those who have been a victim or are being targeted.
The North East has the highest number of people in debt in the UK, with many becoming reliant on high cost, long and short-term credit or turning to loan sharks.
The Durham Savers Project has been developed to help people from County Durham create their own financial safety net.
Last week council staff from the Durham Savers Project were in Chester-le-Street visiting a number of community groups educating people about alternatives to loan sharks and different ways to save money.
Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for social inclusion said: “It is vital that we support our residents to help them stay away from loan sharks.
“By engaging with our Durham Savers Project everyone can save regularly and borrow sensibly using their local credit union and avoid using high cost credit providers.
“The Durham Savers Project will be engaging with local schools and their staff, to host money saving events and introduce children’s savings clubs. This will support the community by helping young people learn about money and raising awareness of the alternatives to high interest debt.
“The project is also working with local businesses to introduce saving schemes at work, helping them to fulfil their corporate social responsibilities, whilst supporting staff.
“We would encourage any resident with information on loan shark activity to report it via the confidential telephone line or website.”
Ron Hogg, Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, said: “I give my full support to initiatives such as this as they are an excellent example of partners working together. Illegal loan sharks create fear and prey on vulnerable residents.
“A zero tolerance approach will help us to create safer neighbourhoods and stop residents living in fear.”
If you would like to report loan shark activity visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk/ or call 0300 555 2222.
• Pictured above (left to right): Paul Atkinson from the Durham savers Project, Inspector Dave Coxon, David Tinmouth from the Durham Savers Project, Chief Constable Mike Barton and Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg after the signing of the loan sharks charter.