Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit launch Charter Mark as part of Christmas campaign
The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit (SIMLU) have today (Thursday) launched the Stop Loan Sharks Scotland Charter Mark. The first recipients of the award are housing, care and property management company Wheatley Group and StepChange debt charity in recognition of their commitment in supporting and promoting the work of the SIMLU and for taking a zero-tolerance stance on illegal money lending within their communities.
The organisations have also pledged to work in partnership with the SIMLU to increase their reach within communities and to increase the confidence of residents to enable them to report illegal loan shark activity safely.
The launch comes as the SIMLU issue a warning Scots to avoid borrowing from loan sharks this Christmas. As more people find themselves in financial difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic, illegal lenders may look to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable.
Although loans from community-based lenders may be seen as providing a quick solution for those in crisis situations, the lenders may not be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority and could charge huge interest rates. On average, loans from illegal lenders end up costing three times as much as a legal loan.
Fiona Richardson, Chief Officer of Trading Standards Scotland said:
“We are launching the Loan Shark Charter Mark to strengthen our partnerships with other organisations that we know are key to tackling illegal money lending.
“We need to make sure that there is a zero-tolerance approach to this type of lending and we can only do that by working closely with agencies that provide advice and support on a daily basis.
“By establishing the Charter Mark we aim to create a network of organisations actively seeking to uncover and tackle illegal lending, but most importantly, that network will help to stop people from ever using loan sharks in the first place.
“It is vitally important to our work to create an environment where people feel that they can report illegal lenders without any personal risk to themselves. We need close relationships with frontline agencies in order to do this.
“I am delighted that we already have two organisations signed up to the Charter Mark, but we need more and we will be actively seeking to sign up others in the coming months. If you think your organisation could help or you would like more information, please get in touch.
“We are in a period of great financial uncertainty and it is important that we take all the steps we can to stop people from borrowing from loan sharks and getting trapped in a cycle of debt and intimidation.”
Alex Adrain, Managing Director of Wheatley 360, part of Wheatley Group, said:
“We’re all too aware of the impact illegal money lending has on people in our communities and as result we have been working with Trading Standards Scotland to raise awareness of its dangers for the last two years.
“That has involved informing people about the signs and risks of illegal money lending; signposting them to how to report it; and supporting our customers who become affected to access safer forms of finance. It is one of the many ways we are helping our tenants at Wheatley to lead safer lives and we’re delighted this work has been recognised with one of the first Charter Mark accreditations by Trading Standards Scotland.”
Sharon Bell, Head of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland said,
“We’re very pleased to be a recipient of the Charter Mark. We know the damaging impact of illegal money lending on individuals and communities.
“The Illegal Money Lending Unit carries out vital work in addressing the pernicious and criminal activity of illegal lending, which all too often takes advantage of vulnerable households facing the greatest levels of financial need.”
To find out more about the work of the SIMLU and to find organisations who can provide support and advice to those in financial difficulties, visit our website at www.tsscot.co.uk/illegal-lending or call the free and confidential helpline on 0800 074 0878. The helpline will remain open 24/7 throughout the festive period.