A NEW dedicated advice site has been launched to support Scots battling loan sharks – amid a surge in online scams during the pandemic.
The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit (SIMLU) has also expanded its network of organizations operating in communities, which help residents to safely report illegal activities of loan sharks.
Throughout the pandemic, many illegal lenders have moved online, using ads and social media messages to take advantage of those most vulnerable.
While loans from these online lenders can be seen as a quick fix for people in crisis, the lenders may not be licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority and could charge huge interest rates.
On average, loans from illegal lenders cost three times as much as a legal loan.
The goal of the SIMLU Charter is to create a network of organizations actively seeking to uncover and combat illegal lending and, more importantly, to prevent people from using loan sharks in the first place.
THE new recipients of the Stop Loan Sharks Scotland charter mark, a program initially launched last Christmas to tackle scams, are social enterprise Scotcash and the Grampian Regional Equality Council (GREC) charity in recognition of their commitment to supporting and promoting the work of SIMLU and for taking a zero tolerance stance towards illegal money lending within their communities.
Fiona Richardson, Managing Director of Trading Standards Scotland, said: “I am delighted that the Scotcash and the Grampian Regional Equality Council have signed the Stop Loan Sharks charter.
“We have been working with Scotcash for several years to tackle the problem of illegal money lending and we have been working with GREC for the past year on a prevention project.
“By joining the charter, both organizations confirm their continued commitment to work with us on this issue. ”
She added: “We will work together to promote the message that you shouldn’t use loan sharks, but also to make sure that when someone ends up using an illegal money lender, they know where to go to receive money. appropriate help and assistance. .
“If your organization is interested in joining the charter or if you would like more information, please contact us. In a time of great financial uncertainty, it is important that we take all possible steps to prevent people from borrowing from loan sharks and getting trapped in a cycle of debt and bullying.
Molly McCall, Outreach Worker at the Grampian Regional Equality Council, said: “GREC was very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with SIMLU over the past year. The funding we have received has enabled us to do essential work to prevent loan sharks from targeting local minority communities through our Aberdeen AIM project.
“We were able to offer group training sessions as well as individual support and advice to people facing financial difficulties or exclusion, which could make them vulnerable to illegal money lending.
“Although the project is now complete, the lessons we learned over the year have been invaluable in informing the work of our case workers in the future.
“Many of our customers will face financial difficulties and, thanks to the work we have done on our Aberdeen AIM project, we are now in a much better position to support these customers.
“I am delighted that GREC has joined the Mark Charter and I am very proud to be able to continue to work in partnership with the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit as part of its mission to stop loan sharks.”
Sharon MacPherson, Managing Director of Scotcash, added: “We recognize the importance of taking a zero tolerance stance on illegal money lending in our communities and are proud to have worked with Scottish Illegal Money Lending. Unites over the past five years to combat this problem. .
“This partnership has flourished and we were delighted to receive funding from them to establish our Scottish Money MOT service in 2018. This has enabled us to better support those vulnerable to illegal money lenders, at the heart of which is find those in dire need of borrowing money but lacking alternatives. In the longer term, this has helped create conditions that may reduce the use of illegal money lenders.
“We are thrilled to be recognized by the Stop Loan Sharks charter brand, which recognizes the immense power when people are working towards the same goal. We look forward to continuing our partnership with SILMU to significantly disrupt illegal money lending. ”
The unit’s new website – stopillegallending.co.uk – was set up to provide dedicated advice and support.