Sharks amongst us at North West Universities

Posted: 28-02-2013

The England Illegal Money Lending Team’s mascot ‘Sid the Shark’ toured university campuses to highlight the dangers of loan sharks during National Student Money Week.

The Team working in partnership with NASMA (National Association of Student Money Advisers) and local Trading Standards Authorities encouraged students to turn away from unlicensed lenders and speak out against the crime if they have been a victim- representatives from the Team were on hand offering advice and handing out free merchandise branded with the 0300 555 2222 confidential hotline number for reporting loan sharks.

Students were encouraged to get creative, with the theme ‘Sharks amongst us’, as they took photos of Sid out and about on campus at nine universities in the North West.

The photos were shared on twitter on Thursday 14th February 2013, when students took over the @loansharknews account using the #Sharky. The first 50 people to retweet the photos were in with a chance of winning a £15 Itunes voucher, funded by the England Illegal Money Lending Team.

The campaign reached around 6000 students, with more than 160 #Sharky retweets, and more than 300 photos shared. 5000 bottle openers were distributed branded with the hotline number.

An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark.

These criminals usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers 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.  Extra amounts and interest, often at exorbitant rates 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.

Phil Davis, NASMA Chairperson said “We need to reassure students they can discuss their money issues with experts at their university campuses – financial assistance is often available either as extra cash, or practical assistance with payments to creditors. We want to reduce the risk of students turning to illegal money lenders and our partnership with the Illegal Money Lending Team is an important part of our work to increase the financial capability of the student body nationally.”

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. Working with NASMA we are reaching out the student community and 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 the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

Notes to editors

The following universities were involved: Liverpool University, Liverpool JMU, Liverpool Hope, Edge Hill, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Manchester, Bolton University, University of Central Lancs and Lancaster University.

The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) represents all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as Scambusters, the Illegal Money Lending Teams, Safety at Ports and the National Trading Standards eCrime Centre.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to more than 150 years-worth of custodial sentences. They have written off almost £40 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 19,000 victims.

Funded by the National Trading Standards Board, the Stop Loan Sharks Project consists of three Illegal money lending teams; England, Scotland and Wales. Hosted by Birmingham City Council and working in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities up and down the country, the England Team consists of specialist officers who investigate and prosecute illegal money lending and related activity and LIAISE officers who support victims and raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders. The project piloted in 2004, and expanded in 2007.

National Student Money Week was created by NASMA in 2011 and has continued to grow since then. The week highlights the excellent work currently being undertaken by practitioners and the range of support available for applicants, students and graduates in UK further and higher education. The key messages are that support is available, and that students should apply as early as they can for funding that may be available to them. The week provides a chance to take a positive message to the widest possible audience and contribute to the collective voice of those working to support current and prospective students and to improve the financial capability of students.

NASMA is a registered charity in England & Wales, acting as a focus for information exchange between practitioners in the field of student funding, bringing together professionals from across the sector and encouraging the free exchange of ideas. They work closely with national decision makers and their influencers on student finance policy. In addition they work with other relevant sector organisations to promote the needs of students, student money advisers and fund and bursary administrators NASMA strives to relieve the poverty of students through the provision of advice, information and training.