Money that has been confiscated from convicted loan sharks will be used to back new credit union accounts in Bath, thanks to a new partnership with the Bristol Credit Union.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) has joined forces with Bristol Credit Union to use proceeds of crime money as an incentive to encourage people to save, and to raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.
The first 50 people to join Bristol Credit Union before the end of December, and who make three monthly payments into their account, will qualify for a savings boost of £25.
James Berry, Chief Executive at Bristol Credit Union, said: “We provide savings and loans services to more than 750 Bath members from our Weston Hub, and sadly we’ve heard stories of people who have fallen into the hands of loan sharks.
“Many loan sharks will resort to bullying tactics, such as intimidation, threats and even violence to enforce repayment, and often won’t set an interest figure or have any form of paperwork.
“We want to make loan sharks history in our county, so we’re delighted to offer this incentive to show people there is a better, safer and more affordable way to manage their money.”
An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt.
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We are pleased to be working with Bristol Credit Union to launch this incentive to encourage people to save and turn away from loan sharks.
“Credit unions offer a real lifeline for some people, because they offer access to safe and legitimate financial services, helping to reduce the risk of people going to illegal money lenders who often target desperate people on low incomes.
“We would urge victims of loan sharks to contact us in confidence on 0300 555 2222 and help us bring these unscrupulous lenders to justice.”
For more information on how to become a member of Bristol Credit Union, call 0117 924 7309 or visit www.bristolcreditunion.org/contact to find location details of your nearest service point.
To report a loan shark, call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences.
They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.