Ipswich: War on loan sharks launched as concerns raised

The South East Ipswich Safer Neighbourhood Team gather to raise awareness of loan shark week.

The South East Ipswich Safer Neighbourhood Team gather to raise awareness of loan shark week. - Credit: Archant

Concerns have been raised over the number of loan sharks who are preying on debt-laden people in Ipswich.

A campaign to highlight the problem of illegal money lenders has been launched, focusing on the north west of the town following a similar initiative in the south east of Ipswich earlier this year.

Earlier this month, The Star revealed how a credit crisis in Ipswich and Felixstowe had seen personal debt spiral to nearly £5million last year.

Today, the town’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) said loan sharks were a “concern” and urged people to get in touch if they needed help.

Ipswich CAB’s deputy manager Nelleke van Helfteren said: “We know it is an issue in Ipswich. It’s really important that people come and disclose it as soon as possible and get help with their debt.”

The campaign, which involves the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Suffolk Trading Standards, the police, and borough councillors and staff, has seen representatives go out into the community to talk to the public about the dangers of loan sharks.

The lenders often add exorbitant amounts to debts and might use threats and violence to frighten people who cannot pay the money back.

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Last year specialist advisers at Ipswich CAB helped 311 clients facing a total of £3,748,097 debt – an average of £12,052 each. Of that £3,148,921 was classed as credit debt – the result of people taking out credit cards and applying for pay day loans for example. The worry is that to pay off legitimate debts, people will go to loan sharks and find themselves in more trouble.

Tim Passmore, police and crime commissioner in Suffolk, said: “We need better regulation but also people need to let us know it is happening. This is not something to be ashamed of. There are thousands of people who have problems with debt.”

There have been activities taking place in north west Ipswich this week to raise awareness about loan sharks.

The character Sid the Shark visited a lunch club at Whitton Church and a community playbus to inform people about the issue.

Today there was due to be an information session at Wellington Children’s Centre in Chevallier Street and a walkabout in Westgate and Gipping.

Anyone who has been affected by this crime is urged to call 0300 555 2222, text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003, or email reportaloanshark@stoploan sharks.gov.uk If you are in danger call 999.

Case study

In June last year Mike from Ipswich, a campaigner against loan sharks, won a prestigious award at the Trading Standards Institute Conference for his work to raise awareness of the problem. Mike’s £250 loan spiralled to a staggering debt of £90,000 over two decades, which he described as “sheer hell”. He was just 20 when he bought a car for £250 from a friend of the family who turned out to be an illegal money lender. Over the next 17 years he paid back an estimated £90,000 pounds, suffered a heart attack because of the stress and tried to take his own life. He lost his house, his job and very nearly his family. He said: “My involvement with the loan shark was a living nightmare; you wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but the Illegal Money Lending Team who prosecuted the loan shark were fantastic.”