Staff at a North Staffordshire housing association have been honoured for cracking down on loan sharks.
The team at Aspire Housing in Newcastle-under-Lyme won a national award for their efforts to stop people falling victim to sharks who charge huge amounts of interest.
The national Stop Loan Sharks Awards were hosted by the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) who investigate and prosecute illegal money lenders across the UK.
Paul Malkin, income collection and generation manager, says: “We are thrilled to be awarded this national award, which recognises our efforts in our communities to help put a stop to loan sharks by promoting the options and services of the Illegal Money Lending Team.”
Aspire has hosted 13 neighbourhood events in the past year where more than 1,250 questionnaires were completed, 2,500 leaflets delivered and more than 300 posters displayed.
All front line staff have been trained to recognise the signs that someone is being targeted by a loan shark.
They offer support and will refer victims to IMLT who can identify the loan shark and remove them from the area.
Dave Benbow, liaise manager at IMLT, said: “We work very closely with community groups and organisations to enable us to chizzle down and get information from these hard to reach groups and vulnerable individuals within communities.”
Loan sharks lend money but operate illegally without correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority.
This means if debts cannot be paid, loan sharks can resort to extreme methods to enforce repayment, such as threats, violence and intimidation.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a loan shark, you can contact IMLT on 0300 555 2222 or visit their website www.stoploansharks.uk