Hartlepool warning about the 'hidden problem' of loan sharks
Calls have been made for anyone suffering from dealing with loan sharks in Hartlepool to come forward for support.
The Safer Hartlepool Partnership this week received a presentation from a representative of the England Illegal Money Lending Team on the problem.
Cath Wohlers, liaise manager at the organisation, warned it is a “hidden crime” and said staff do everything they can to support victims and prosecute loan sharks.
She also issued a plea for people to spread the word on support available.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Shane Moore, the leader of the council, said: “Certainly I hadn’t and I don’t think other people potentially appreciate how difficult a situation people may be in before they come to a loan shark.”
He also questioned if the full extent of the issue in Hartlepool was known.
Ms Wohlers responded noting “there is not a community it doesn’t happen in” and, although Government statistics state there are 300,000 UK households using illegal money lenders, it is likely “significantly higher”.
Cllr Rob Cook added: “When you see those people your heart breaks for them, it’s horrible.”
Ms Wohlers warned loan sharks can be anyone, with a rise in culprits “evolving” to use technology and social media to attract people, and urged people in need to contact them.
She added: “We’ve never had any repercussions for anyone reporting a loan shark, and I’ve never had anyone who’s said they wished they never met us, they say we wish we reported sooner.
“This is a crime, it can be prosecuted, it will be prosecuted and it won’t be tolerated.”
Contact the Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222.