PEOPLE in Eastbourne who turn to loansharks for money are being warned of the dangers.
And now staff at the Jobcentre Plus in St Anne’s Road are being trained in how to spot signs of illegal money lending activity.
The initiative is a joint one between jobcentres and Trading Standards who have joined forces to help customers who are being targeted by loan sharks, some of whom charge interest rates as high as 131,000 per cent.
An estimated 310,000 households in the UK borrow from illegal sources each year and a fifth resort to using loan sharks especially over the Christmas period.
The Department for Business Industry and Skills has also announced new funding to continue the fight against loan sharks and scams.
Specialist regional Illegal Money Lending and Scambuster teams run by Trading Standards will receive £5.2m and £3.2m respectively.
Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said, “Loan sharks are a blight on our communities.
“They prey on vulnerable people and use threats and violence to get what they want.
“That’s why we are investing in tackling these illegal parasites and now Jobcentre staff will help people avoid being targeted by them.
“Debt is one of the five drivers of poverty and at this time of year, when times are tight, it is more important than ever that we take action to support vulnerable people with their financial problems.”
Tony Quigley, head of the Trading Standards illegal money lending team, said, “Once loan sharks have trapped their victims in a spiral of debt they will resort to any methods, including threats and violence, to reclaim their cash.
“We’ve even heard reports of loan sharks waiting for claimants outside Jobcentre Plus offices, so it’s important we do all we can to help protect vulnerable people.
“We would urge anyone who is involved with an illegal lender or knows someone who is to contact us in confidence.”
To report a loan shark contact the confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222.