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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Crackdown planned on loan sharks
Pound coins on a 10 note
About 165,000 people in the UK borrow from loan sharks
A crackdown on illegal money lenders has been announced by the government amid growing concern over debt levels.

Undercover teams of investigators around the UK will get 3m from the Treasury to hunt down loan sharks.

They will work with Trading Standards officers to find and prosecute illegal lenders. Loan shark victims will be offered support and debt advice.

The scheme comes amid an escalating credit market crisis, which could leave more vulnerable borrowers worse off.

The rollout of the project nationwide comes after the success of pilot schemes in Birmingham and Glasgow.

Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable and desperate people
John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform

There, dedicated teams, staffed by Trading Standards officers, have shut down loan books worth 3m and identified more than 200 illegal lenders since 2004.

Research suggests illegal lenders target the most vulnerable members of society, such as single parents, and violence is often the result if the debtor cannot pay the money back.

Desperate measures

More than 165,000 British households facing debt problems, mainly in deprived inner-city areas, borrow from loan sharks every year, according to government figures.

These desperate borrowers have either had every available line of legitimate credit shut to them, or did not know where to turn.

"Loan sharks are criminals who prey on vulnerable and desperate people," said John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform.

"We are committed to shutting these thugs down and bringing them to justice."

The scheme was applauded by consumer groups.

"There are people who are completely excluded from most other types of credit and have no choice but to go to illegal lenders. That makes them incredibly vulnerable," the National Consumer Council's deputy director of policy, Claire Whyley, told the BBC.

Some of the areas that will get particular attention include Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets in London, Newcastle and Tyneside in the North East, and Nottingham, Leicester and Derby in the East Midlands.



SEE ALSO
Special team targets loan sharks
25 Aug 07 |  South West Wales
Teams on the scent of loan sharks
14 Sep 04 |  Scotland

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