Hard-up residents in town falling prey to loan sharks, fears agency

Many residents in town are falling prey to loan sharks, it is feared.

Hastings Legal Advice Centre said more than 380 landlord possession claims were made last year and believes hard-up people are being forced to turn to illegal money lenders.

Housing charity BHT Sussex is preparing to hold a drop-in event in St Leonards to raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing money from loan sharks.

Hastings and St Leonards have been targeted as ‘hot spot’ areas for loan sharks by the England Illegal Money Team which works to prosecute loan sharks across the UK.

BHT Sussex is hosting the event on Monday (July 28) from 11am to 2pm at The Advice and Community Hub, Renaissance House, London Road, to offer people a chance to talk to the Illegal Money Lending Team, BHT advisers and the Hastings and Rother Credit Union about their financial worries or concerns they may have of loan shark activity.

There will also be an appearance from Sid the Shark, the official mascot of the Illegal Money lending Team and a raffle with a variety of prizes.

Jo Wilson, from Hastings Legal Advice Centre, said: “Loan sharks are circling our town. Hastings has a lot of characteristics that have made it a target to loan sharks. Thousands of people work on zero-hour contracts in the town and thousands more earn just the minimum wage. More than 380 landlord possession claims were made to the county court last year – that’s at least one possession claim every day and more than 80 mortgage possession claims were made to the county court last year. Loan sharks will typically appear friendly at first but their behaviour can quickly change with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts. They will often target people who are on low incomes, as well as those who may struggle to obtain credit from legitimate sources. We want our event to reach out to these people and make them aware of the support that is available.”

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities. We would urge anyone who has been the victim of a loan shark to report them in confidence on 0300 555 2222, as we can help.”