Dangers of doorstep lenders

LOAN sharks are preying on vulnerable people in Ipswich by offering high interest loans on doorsteps and in shopping centres it has been claimed today.

LOAN sharks are preying on vulnerable people in Ipswich by offering high interest loans on doorsteps and in shopping centres it has been claimed today.

An Ipswich woman who fell victim to doorstep lenders has spoken of her concerns about the legal loan salesmen who approach those in desperate situations.

Patricia Betts, 46, of Curlew Road, Ipswich, has said people who cannot borrow from banks and building societies are often tempted by doorstep lenders but urged people to approach credit unions instead.

Credit unions are community based banking schemes which offer their members cheap, flexible loans and savings accounts. Each member must save for three months before they can take out a loan.

Mrs Betts began to borrow money from a doorstep lender in 1998 after separating from her husband.

She said: "After we sold the house there was no equity left. I had a child who was having difficulties at school and I couldn't go back to work so I had to go on income support.

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"Everything worked well until Christmas when my children still wanted the same as everyone else. I didn't have enough to cover Christmas and my washing machine and fridge had broken when someone knocked on the door and asked if I wanted a doorstep loan."

As time went by Ms Betts borrowed about £2,000 and paid back £3,500 - as her debt increased she was offered more loans with lower weekly payments to pay off the debt.

She added: "It is still going on now and a lot of people are still in trouble.

"They come to the door for payments every week and you feel obliged to pay whatever you can. If you are in arrears they send letters saying they will take you to court and they offer the solution of another loan."

Because lenders call every week to collect repayments the temptation can often be for people to pay back this debt and ignore their other responsibilities such as paying rent.

Sally Chicken, marketing director for Ipswich credit union, said: "Ipswich borough council have said rent arrears have fallen by £150,000 since the credit union was set up. We have got good support from Ipswich council and Orwell housing to try to reduce rent arrears."

Ms Betts has now paid off her debts and borrows from Ipswich Credit Union, where interest is minimal. She is even beginning to save some cash and is a volunteer with the organisation.

According to the Consumer Credit Association, borrowing a typical loan of £400 over 24 weeks would accumulate £12 of interest from a credit union and £160 from a doorstep lender.

Ipswich Credit Union operate in several locations in Ipswich including their headquarters in Austin Street; community shops in Dickens Road and Maidenhall, The Priory in Queen's Way; the Surestart Centre in Clapgate Lane; the community shop in Bramford Road; Ipswich Caribbean Centre in Woodbridge Road and Making Tracks in Ulster Avenue.

For further information contact the credit union on 01473 690690.

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