The Vulnerability Registration Service (VRS), a not-for-profit company providing the UK’s first central vulnerability database, has partnered with the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), an organisation that investigates and prosecutes illegal money lenders, commonly known as loan sharks, while supporting those who have been affected by the crime.
It is a unique and powerful partnership that will for the first time enable service providers (i.e. banks, utilities, mobile phone companies, local authorities, councils…etc.) to play a vital and active role in protecting those customers who have fallen victim to loan sharks from further harm.
An estimated 310,000 people are in debt to illegal money lenders in the UK. These individuals are trapped in a cycle of debt and extreme misery, unable to settle the growing amount of money they owe, with illegal lenders using intimidation, threats and violence against them and their families. With soaring household bills and illegal lenders using even more effective tactics to trap victims, more families could be greater at risk of being exploited by these criminals over the coming months.
The Illegal Money Lending Team provides specialist practical and emotional support to victims and their families. The team also investigates and prosecutes loan sharks and works with partners to make communities safer and stronger.
Thanks to the new partnership, the Illegal Money Lending Team will support people who have borrowed money from a loan shark to refer into the Vulnerability Registration Service database if they choose to. This database is a central, independent register of vulnerable people, that helps organisations to identify vulnerability and treat their customers fairly. Service providers using the Vulnerability Registration Service database will be alerted if their customers are victims of loan sharks through a ‘risk of coercion’ flag (also applied to victims of financial abuse etc).
Not easily available to service providers anywhere else, this information will give them the ability to adjust their approach and take more appropriate steps with those customers. It will enable them to focus their resources effectively, such as assigning a trained advisor, adjusting their collections strategy or applying a fairer lending criteria.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “There have been some really extreme cases where lives have been destroyed by ruthless loan sharks. Social media influencers have been the most recent and very effective tactic used to reach younger generations in particular, as you can see from our recent case study.
“Organisations have a crucial role to play in the identification, support and safeguarding vulnerable people who are at risk of harm. This partnership with the Vulnerability Registration Service provides a safe platform in which to help people further.”
Helen Lord, CEO of the Vulnerability Registration Service, said: “This kind of vulnerability has fallen outside of credit reporting. It doesn’t get picked up in the usual processes. The fear of a loan shark is far greater than the fear of a court judgment or even a bailiff knocking on the door. Such tactics used by organisations trying to recover money for unpaid bills, whether they are credit card bills or priority bills like rent or utilities, have no chance against illegal lenders that will threaten people’s lives and mental health. These tactics will, however, cause more harm to the individuals.
“Our partnership with the Illegal Money Lending Team will add a vital layer of protection for victims of illegal money lenders by making this information available to legitimate organisations for the first time. These organisations have a duty to use this information and ensure they are not causing further harm.”
Confidential support and advice is available to victims and their concerned family members or friends, 24 hours a day on the national Stop Loan Sharks helpline 0300 555 2222.