Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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New measures to combat loan sharks
New measures to tackle criminals illegally lending money were announced today by Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas.
The national hotline - which is confidential - is now up and running and gives consumers one single point of contact.
A new website has also been launched providing information on managing finances and how to borrow money safely.
The Stop Loan Sharks teams have successfully prosecuted more than 60 people with a further 90 prosecutions underway. This amounts to nearly 40 years of custodial sentences for illegal lending and associated crimes.
The teams have supported more than 7,000 victims of illegal money lenders. The first two pilot schemes were launched in September 2004 and then rolled out to every region of England, Wales and Scotland in 2007.
Their work has meant around £14million has been saved for consumers who were locked in illegal deals with these money lenders.
Consumer Affairs Minister, Gareth Thomas, said: "Loan sharks fleece hard-earned cash from their victims causing great distress and anguish.
"Calling this hotline gives victims the chance to talk in confidence. They get advice and support and the information provided helps the team to take action to stop illegal money lending.
"The teams are having huge success in bringing these criminals to justice and are saving consumers significant amounts of money."
The national hotline - which is confidential - is: 0300 555 2222. And the website is: http://www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks Consumers can also text 'loan (space) shark (space) and your message' to 60003.
Notes to editors
1. The national helpline replaces the individual regional numbers.
2. Government has committed £11m since 2004 (first two pilot areas were Glasgow and Birmingham) to tackling this problem and will continue to fund a team in every region until March 2011.
3. An estimated 165,000 households in the UK use an illegal money lender each year according to independent research commissioned by the then DTI (Nov 2006)
4. The Consumer Credit Act 1974 requires lenders to be licensed by the OFT. Trading Standards departments have responsibility for enforcement against unlicensed lenders.