A smartphone app has been launched to make it quicker and easier for people to report loan sharks and access support services.
The Stop Loan Sharks app, launched by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (ILMT), includes a contact form and phone number to report loan sharks, as well as information to help victims of illegal money lending to get support.
It also offers users advice on the tell-tale signs that someone is a loan shark. These include offering cash loans without any paperwork, charging extortionate interest, use of benefits or bank cards as security, and threatening behaviour or violence to get money.
The app was funded from cash recovered from loan sharks under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The app also provides information to various frontline professionals who may meet loan shark victims in the course of their work: such as debt advisors, social workers and housing staff. These professionals can read information on how to recognise the signs and respond to disclosures and where to refer clients to for specialist support.
Other features include a search tool to help users find credit unions and legitimate lenders, links to confidential debt advice services and push notifications about loan shark arrests and court cases.
The launch of the Stop Loan Sharks app came after the latest IMLT data revealed an increase in online reports during the first half of 2020.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We are pleased to launch our new smartphone app and give victims of illegal money lending additional ways in which to access specialist practical and emotional support quickly, easily, discreetly, and safely.
“We know from research it takes on average three years for a victim to come forward for help after borrowing from a loan shark. Using technology will improve a victim’s access to support services at the touch of a button and make it easier for people to report incidents and find legitimate lenders.
“This app is a valuable tool and provides excellent information for partner agencies, helping them to recognise the symptoms and effects of illegal money lending when dealing with customers. Loan sharks could be having a detrimental impact financially, physically and emotionally on their clients and service users, so it’s important we work together to stamp out this callous crime and ensure victims are given the support they need.”