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Colchester Borough Homes warns residents of Christmas loan sharks

Colchester Borough Homes is supporting a campaign by the national Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) to warn residents about the dangers of borrowing money from loan sharks this Christmas.

A loan shark is somebody who lends money illegally without the correct authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority. Loan sharks often appear friendly at first, but their behaviour soon changes once money is owed and interest rates may be very high. In the worst cases, people have been left afraid to go outside of their homes after loan sharks resorted to violence, threats and intimidation to make a profit.

Christmas is a prime time for loan sharks - these criminals are circling on community estates, looking for the next family to exploit.

Karen Loweman, Director of Housing at Colchester Borough Homes, said, "Falling into the jaws of a loan shark is easier than people think. They often start out friendly, as a neighbour wanting to help, and by the time their victims realise what is going on they are already in debt. We are warning tenants to stay vigilant and only to borrow from legitimate lenders over the Christmas period."

Colchester Credit Union are a much safer alternative to borrowing from unauthorised lenders. The Credit Union offers a safe and easily-accessible home for your savings, as well as ethical loans at reasonable rates.

Currently, the Union are running a Stop Loan Sharks incentive in partnership with the IMLT to encourage more people to save instead of borrowing. The first fifty new members to join Colchester Credit Union and make three instalments into their account within three months will receive a £25 savings boost.

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said:

"Christmas can be a difficult time for some families; the cost and added pressures may tempt some people into borrowing from a loan shark. This timely campaign will hopefully make people think twice before using an illegal money lender.

"Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable communities and fleece their victims out of hard earned cash, often through intimidation and violence. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, we urge you to seek help by contacting us on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.uk."

If you think you have been the victim of a loan shark, you can call the England Illegal Money Lending Team's hotline anonymously or in confidence on 0300 555 2222. IMLT advisors are there to help, not to judge, and will be able to help you work out what your options are. You can also report a loan shark by text to 078600 22116 or online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk.

Help with debt and budgeting is available at your local Citizen's Advice Bureau, www.cbhomes.org.uk or call 07943 737487.