A CAMPAIGN to tackle loan sharks in Suffolk is to be officially launched next week.

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Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council have teamed up with the England Illegal Money Lending Team for the week-long campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks.

Through the initiative, numerous agencies hope to encourage both adults and young people to turn away from loan sharks and to report the crime if they have been a victim.

Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for public protection, said: “It is important to remember the very real dangers loan sharks pose to our communities.

“A moment of debt relief can quickly turn into a lifetime of financial misery and distress.

“Loan sharks never have your best interests at heart so I would strongly urge anyone considering using them to avoid them at all costs.”

Other agencies involved with the project, which will start on Monday, include Suffolk police, the East of England Co-operative Society, Ipswich and Suffolk Credit Union and the Salvation Army.

An integral part of the campaign is promoting the credit union as a safe and legal alternative to loan sharks.

Suffolk Trading Standards has put forward £5,000 of proceeds of crime money to encourage people to join up and save with Ipswich and Suffolk Credit Union.

Throughout next week, representatives from the agencies involved, as well as Sid the Shark, will be out and about visiting communities and primary schools offering advice.

An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark. Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal money lending is a despicable crime which causes nothing but harm to our communities.

“These lenders may appear to be offering a community service, but borrowers are often forced to pay back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford.”

Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured 220 prosecutions for illegal money lending activity, leading to more than 150 year’s worth of prison sentences.

They have written off almost £40million worth of illegal debt and helped more than 19,000 victims.

If you have been the victim, of a loan shark, you can report the crime to confidential hotline 0300 555 2222.

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