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As debt soars for many people in the West Midlands after an expensive Christmas and a cost of living crisis that refuses to ease, a campaign warning about the dangers of loan sharks is due to be stepped up in January.

Led by Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil, credit union CitySave, and the England Illegal Money Lending Team, it pushes for greater awareness of people who lend money illegally.

The campaign also raises awareness of the help that is available from legitimate and responsible lenders like credit unions.

The Centre for Social Justice estimates that around 1 million people could be borrowing from illegal money lenders in England, whilst 2 in 5 confessed to concealing a financial product, like a credit card, from a loved one.  

The campaign comes amid growing concern that as the cost of living crisis worsens some people in the West Midlands might turn to loan sharks for much needed cash, despite facing extortionate interest rates and risking abuse, harassment and even violence.

The loan shark campaign has taken place online, but has also seen leaflets dropped through letter boxes and handed out in town centres. In January the Assistant PCC, Tom McNeil, says people will see even more Cadets take to the streets to get the message out and he’ll be working with the police and other credit unions to consider what more can be done in the region to prevent exploitative lenders from taking advantage of vulnerable people.  

Credit Unions are similar to banks, but work on a not-for-profit basis and will often go further to support people who might not be able to get help from high street banks.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team investigates illegal money lenders and supports people who have borrowed from loan sharks.

“We know that the cost of living crisis was already worsening for many people in the West Midlands, and beyond, with every passing day.

“Add into the mix that Christmas is a hugely expensive time of year and we end up with a cocktail of debt that could spiral out of control. 

“That’s why I have asked for my joint campaign to be stepped up in January so that we can get the message out that help is at hand for people and reassure them that they don’t need to turn to illegal money lenders who could turn aggressive and violent at a moment’s notice.” Anyone who is being threatened or intimidated by loan sharks should report the issue to West Midlands Police immediately.

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