Citizens Advice Wirral are leading efforts to stop loan sharks preying on vulnerable people in the borough.
Staff and Volunteers have received specialist training on how to identify someone at risk or subject to illegal money lending and how to help them.
The training, run by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), showed staff what signs to look out for and how to recognise the symptoms and effects of illegal money lending when dealing with clients, equipping them to deal with these situations appropriately and sensitively.
A loan shark is someone who lends money as a business without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Loan sharks are unregulated, often give cash loans without any paperwork and charge extortionate interest rates.
Confidentiality is a fundamental cornerstone of Citizens Advice Wirral and all advice remains fully impartial and independent.
Clients can remain anonymous and discuss their situation in the strictest of confidence if they have fallen victim to a loan shark.
Carol Johnson-Eyre, Chief Executive Officer at Citizens Advice Wirral said: “Protecting our clients from illegal money lenders is really important because their actions can have a massive financial and emotional impact.
“Our experienced advisers are ready to support anyone who has borrowed from a loan shark and help them report the crime.
“When contacting us, please do not be alarmed if our staff and volunteers ask about loan sharks. We just want to reach and support as many people who may be impacted as possible. However, please remember there is no pressure to share information – we want you to know support is out there and we will do our best to help.
“If you’re worried about money, it is important to know that you are not alone. Free support is available in Wirral, and we urge people to talk to us about any financial worries they may have, and we will help resolve them.”
Loan shark awareness training has also been delivered for other partner organisations across Wirral, including: Age UK, Journey Men CIC, Forum Housing, Koala NW, Tomorrow’s Women and Change Grow Live (Wirral Ways to Recovery).
The national IMLT has prosecuted hundreds of loan sharks and helped thousands of people escape the clutches of illegal lenders.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team added: “We’re pleased to be working in partnership with a number of organisations across Wirral to crackdown on loan sharks.
“We encourage anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending to come forward, report the crime and get the support they need and deserve.”
Loan sharks may appear friendly at first, but their behaviour can quickly change with some resorting to intimidation and threats if payments are not made. They may be a friend of a friend or someone you know in the community who lends money.
If you think you may be involved with a loan shark, call the team in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also submit a report online and discuss your situation with a support worker via Live Chat between 9am and 5pm weekdays at www.stoploansharks.co.uk.
To talk to someone from Citizens Advice Wirral, call 0808 2787848 (lines open weekdays between 10am and 4pm) or get advice online at www.citizensadvicewirral.org.uk