The North-East charity joins the social enterprise Scotcash as a recipient of the Stop Loan Sharks Scotland Charter Mark in recognition of their zero-tolerance policy towards illegal lending within local communities.
The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit (SIMLU) has also launched a new dedicated advice site to support people in the North East and across Scotland struggling with loan sharks.
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During the pandemic, many illegal lenders have gone online and used social media ads and posts to take advantage of the most vulnerable.
While loans from these online lenders can be seen as a quick solution for those in crisis situations, the lenders may not be authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority and may charge high interest rates.
On average, loans from illegal lenders cost three times as much as a legal loan.
The purpose of the SIMLU charter brand is to create a network of organizations actively seeking to detect and deal with illegal loans and, most importantly, to prevent people from ever using loan sharks.
The unit’s new website – www.stopillegallending.co.uk – has been set up to provide dedicated advice and support.
Molly McCall, outreach worker at the Grampian Regional Equality Council, said: “GREC was so grateful for the opportunity to work with the SIMLU over the past year.
“The funding we have received has enabled us to do vital work to prevent loan sharks from targeting local minority communities through our Aberdeen AIM project.
“We were able to provide group training, as well as one-on-one support and advice for individuals facing financial difficulties or exclusion, which could leave them vulnerable to illegal borrowing.
“While the project is now over, the lessons we have learned over the year have been invaluable in informing our case staff’s work going forward.
“Many of our customers will find themselves in financial difficulties and thanks to the work we have done through our Aberdeen AIM project, we are now much better placed to support those customers.
“I am delighted that GREC has signed the Charter Mark and I am very proud to continue working with the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit on their mission to stop loan sharks.”
Fiona Richardson, chief officer of Trading Standards Scotland, said a prevention project had been worked with GREC over the past year.
She added: “We will work together to get the message across not to use loan sharks, but also to make sure that when someone has used an illegal lender, they know where to go to get the right help and assistance. to get. .
“It’s important that we take all the steps we can to prevent people from borrowing from loan sharks and getting stuck in a cycle of debt and harassment.”