WITH coronavirus forcing thousands out of work, Worcester City Council is supporting a national campaign to prevent vulnerable people falling victim to loan sharks.

Continued economic uncertainty during the pandemic, and many people facing redundancy, means loan sharks may look to take advantage of people in a vulnerable position who feel they have nowhere to turn for help.

Mum of five Becky knows all to well the danger of borrowing money from illegal lenders. She tried to take her own life due to the stress.

The loan shark would text her children if she was late with payments and warned they would be coming to visit unless she paid up.

She said: “What I'd say to other people is, ‘Don’t be tempted’.

“I know it's hard if you've got no money. Borrowing may seem like easy cash but it causes misery. Get help.”

Becky said the loan shark initially posed as a friend but quickly turned nasty – even waiting outside her post office on child benefit day to grab money.

When the truth finally came out, Becky’s case was passed to the England Illegal Money Lending Team and she received immediate emotional and practical help for her situation.

She added: “The first time I spoke to them I was still too scared to tell them everything. I blamed myself for letting it continue that long.”

The England Illegal Money Lending Team is a specialist Trading Standards team which investigates and prosecutes loan sharks.

Since its launch in 2004, the IMLT has prosecuted over 400 people for illegal money lending and crimes such as blackmail, kidnapping, rape and assault.

It has also written off £83 million in illegal debt and helped more than 30,000 victims.

Anyone who feels they have been a victim is urged to contact the team in confidence on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and callers can remain anonymous.

Councillor Lynn Denham, Vice Chair of Worcester City Council’s Communities Committee, said: “Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable people and are a blight on our communities. They fleece their victims and have been known to use intimidation and violence to get their money.

“Worcester City Council wants to let residents know that we will not allow this bullying and criminal behaviour and we will work with our partners to target those who think they are above the law and can get away with it.

"I would urge anyone who desperately needs financial help to not turn to a loan shark but instead to talk to Citizens Advice Worcester or a credit union. The City Council also has a range of ways to support people who are struggling with money.”

A Community Recovery Strategy is being rolled out by the City Council in the wake of the pandemic lockdown.

People who are facing financial hardship can find a range of support at www.worcester.gov.uk.