Loan sharks targeting migrants

ILLEGAL loan sharks are targeting migrant workers soon after their arrival in Suffolk, plunging them into debt and putting them at risk of intimidation and harassment.

ILLEGAL loan sharks are targeting migrant workers soon after their arrival in Suffolk, plunging them into debt and putting them at risk of intimidation and harassment.

Suffolk County Council today revealed it is stepping up its efforts to tackle illegal money lending circles and its trading standards team is threatening repeats of a raid last month on a suspected loan shark operation.

It wants to shut down illegal lenders and offer support to those in debt so they don't have to turn to the shady side of money lending.

The authority says it wants to stop debt destroying the lives of those who find themselves at the hands of aggressive criminal lenders.


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And the council has also revealed that loan sharks are capitalising on the collapse of Christmas hamper firm Farepak by making unsolicited calls to Suffolk residents and offering them cash in the lead-up to Christmas.

Reg Ruffles, the council's assistant county trading standards officer, said: “They've been visiting houses saying 'were you saving with Farepak? Do you need money for Christmas?'.”

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The practice of “cold-calling” and offering cash is illegal and the council wants anyone offered money in this way to report it so it can be investigated.

The revelations that migrant workers, mostly eastern Europeans arriving from EU states, are being targeted emerged from the second stage of a credit summit being hosted by councillors.

Mr Ruffles said: “Most of these people get caught because they got four weeks free rent when they moved here and then they needed to find accommodation.

“They needed £1,000 for that and some of them turned to illegal money lenders unfortunately.”

The Credit and Debt Working Party was launched by the council's public protection scrutiny committee to assess the extent of Suffolk's debt problem and to find ways of preventing people from falling deeper into the red.

It has found that those who find themselves in debt are often faced with intimidating and persistent tactics by loan sharks seeking to be paid their money at high rates of interest.

Mr Ruffles said: “Illegal money lenders come to our attention when they start turning up every day for their money and when they start taking people's benefit books. People are badly affected by debt. It really does turn their lives upside down.”

The Credit and Debt Working Party is set to hear from a range of experts before it presents its findings to the council's cabinet in January.

For help with debt issues or to report what you think might be illegal money lending activities call Suffolk County Council's Consumer Direct helpline on 0845 4040506.

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www.suffolk.gov.uk

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