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National campaign unmasks loan shark predators hiding behind a friendly face.

LUTON, UK – October 31, 2023 – Money Matters Community Bank, a not-for-profit, member-owned community bank dedicated to serving the people of Luton, today joined forces with Luton Council to support the England Illegal Money Lending Team’s (IMLT) Stop Loan Sharks week, to raise awareness about the dangers of loan sharks. The week runs from October 24-31, 2023.

People struggling for money should beware of false friends offering to help out this Halloween, as this new national Stop Loan Sharks campaign aims to expose the predators behind the friendly mask. Over half of the people supported by the England Illegal Money Lending Team so far this year borrowed from someone they thought was a friend, but who turned out to be a ruthless loan shark. They ended up paying back extortionate interest rates and many faced threats, intimidation and violence when they couldn’t meet the repayments. A study conducted by the Financial Inclusion Centre in 2022 estimated that more than 3,700 people in Luton are in debt to loan sharks.

Money Matters Community Bank's partnership with Luton Council and Luton Rising, announced this summer, signifies a commitment to addressing critical financial issues such as these head-on, by promoting education, collaboration, and responsible lending practices that can pave the way for a brighter financial future for everyone in Luton.

Research carried out for Luton Council conservatively estimates that 3,730 local people are using loan sharks while another 12,400 people are using subprime loans.

Tony Quigley, head of IMLT, said:

These illegal money lenders are experts at deception. They are friendly and approachable at first, but when the time comes to make the repayments they can show their true face – a ruthless criminal intent on exploiting the most vulnerable.

We want people to be aware that not all illegal money lenders look like they do on TV. They can be another mum in the playground, a neighbour, a work colleague, even a longstanding family friend. There are far safer ways of accessing affordable credit, like credit unions. If anyone thinks they have been targeted in this way, they should contact our specialist team of advisers in confidence for help and support."

Dennis O’Connor, Chairman of Money Matters Community Bank, said:

We believe that credit unions like ours are at the forefront of the fight against loan sharks. In a financial landscape where predatory lending practices continue to harm our communities, credit unions like ours are a beacon of hope. We are committed to providing responsible and ethical financial services to our members.

Cllr Hazel Simmons MBE, Luton Council leader added:

Loan sharks are a menace preying on people on low incomes. We are determined to work with partners to address the issue of high-cost credit in our community, helping people access the benefits and advice available to them and making sure people who need it have access to affordable credit. That is why we are working with Money Matters Community Bank and Luton Rising to create a more financially resilient and empowered Luton.

The Centre for Social Justice estimates that around 1.08 million people are borrowing from loan sharks in the UK. Since its launch in 2004, the IMLT has supported over 31,000 people and written off over £91 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 410 prosecutions for illegal money lending.

Anyone who thinks they have been targeted by an illegal money lender or has information about illegal lending is urged to contact the IMLT. People can call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 222; text a report to 078600 22116 or send a private message on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject. They can also visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk where there is a live chat facility from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

About Money Matters Community Bank

Money Matters Community Bank is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial institution dedicated to serving the people of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire with integrity, transparency, and a commitment to improving the financial well-being of these communities. Our mission is to provide accessible and responsible financial solutions that empower individuals and strengthen our community's financial resilience.

Notes to editors

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