A NEW campaign against loan sharks has been launched in North Yorkshire by trading standards officers, in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team.

The crackdown is aimed at loan sharks who cash in on Christmas – and cause misery for people who find themselves trapped into paying over the odds for loans they cannot afford.

Through enforcement action, awareness raising and education the campaign is designed to encourage people to celebrate the season without turning to an illegal money lender.

“In the majority of cases victims are introduced to the lender either through a friend, family member or because they are known in the community,” said the county council’s executive member for trading standards, Chris Metcalfe.

“Loan sharks rarely offer paperwork and are unclear on the terms of the loan, so borrowers are completely in the dark as to how much they are actually paying.

“Extra amounts and interest payments are added completely at random, so the debt spirals to be never-ending.”

As the debts can’t legally be enforced, the lenders will often resort to threats, violence and other extreme methods to enforce repayment.

Nationally, the England Illegal Money LendingTeam have investigated and prosecuted some of the most threatening and violent lenders - including loan sharks who have threatened to harm victim’s families and pets, throw acid into people’s faces or burn down their homes.

They’ve also seen cases were actual violence has been used, including a victim who was kidnapped and attacked with a machete and a female victim who was raped.

To report a loan shark: call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300-555-2222, text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003, e-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or send a private message on facebook.com/stoploansharks