New website aims to quell Scotland’s online loan shark boom

A NEW dedicated advice site has launched to help Scots struggling to deal with loan sharks – amid a surge in online scams during the pandemic.

The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit (SIMLU) has also expanded its network of community-based organizations that help residents safely report the activities of illegal moneylenders.

Throughout the pandemic, many illegal moneylenders have moved online, using social media ads and posts to take advantage of the most vulnerable.

Although loans from these online lenders can be considered a quick fix for people in crisis, the lenders may not be licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority and could charge huge interest rates.

On average, loans from illegal lenders cost three times more than a legal loan.

The purpose of the SIMLU charter is to create a network of organizations actively seeking to uncover and combat illegal lending and, most importantly, to prevent people from using loan sharks in the first place.

Zero tolerance

THE newest recipients of the Stop Loan Sharks Scotland charter brand, a program originally launched last Christmas to tackle scams, are social enterprise Scotcash and the charity Grampian Regional Equality Council (GREC) in recognition of their commitment to supporting and promoting the work of SIMLU and for taking a zero tolerance stance on illegal money lending within their communities.

Fiona Richardson, Managing Director of Trading Standards Scotland, said: “I am delighted that Scotcash and Grampian Regional Equality Council have signed the Stop Loan Sharks charter.

“We have worked with Scotcash for several years to solve the problem of illegal money lending and we have worked with the GREC for a year on a prevention project.

“By signing the charter, both organizations confirm their continued commitment to work with us on this issue.”

She added: “We will work together to promote the message that you should not use loan sharks, but also to ensure that where someone has ended up using an illegal moneylender, they know where to go to receive appropriate help and assistance. .

“If your organization is interested in registering for the charter or if you would like more information, please contact us. In a time of great financial uncertainty, it is important that we take all possible measures to prevent people from borrowing from loan sharks and getting trapped in a cycle of debt and bullying.

‘Grateful’

Molly McCall, Outreach Worker with the Grampian Regional Equality Council, said: “GREC was very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with SIMLU over the past year. The funding we have received has enabled us to carry out vital work to prevent loan sharks from targeting local minority communities through our Aberdeen AIM project.

“We were able to offer group training sessions as well as individual support and counseling to people facing financial hardship or exclusion, which could make them vulnerable to illegal money lending.

“Although the project is now complete, the lessons we have learned over the year have been invaluable in informing the work of our social workers in the future.

“Many of our customers will face financial difficulties and, thanks to the work we have done on our Aberdeen AIM project, we are now in a much better position to support these customers.

“I am delighted that the GREEK have signed the Mark Charter and I am very proud to be able to continue to work in partnership with Scotland’s Illegal Money Lending Unit on their mission to stop loan sharks.”

Sharon MacPherson, Chief Executive of Scotcash, added: “We recognize the importance of taking a zero tolerance stance on illegal money lending within our communities and are proud to have worked with the Scottish Unity of lending illegal money over the past five years to solve this problem. .

“This partnership has flourished and we were delighted to receive funding from them to establish our MOT Scotcash Money service in 2018. This has allowed us to better support those vulnerable to illegal money lenders, at the heart of which are those who urgently need to borrow money but cannot find alternatives. In the longer term, this has helped to create conditions that may mitigate the reliance on illegal money lenders.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by the Stop Loan Sharks charter brand, which recognizes the immense power when people work towards the same goal. We look forward to continuing our partnership with SILMU to significantly disrupt lending. illegal money.

The unit’s new website – stopillegallending.co.uk – has been set up to provide dedicated advice and support.