Shoppers were warned of the dangers of loan sharks in a crime awareness event at a Sheffield supermarket.
South Yorkshire Police joined forces with experts from the National Illegal Money Lending Team England as part of a community crime awareness event in Woodhouse.
They set up an information stall in the Co-op to warn of loan sharks operating across the county.
Inspector Jason Booth, of South East Sheffield Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “Victims are being taken advantage of by loan sharks who resort to a variety of tactics such as threats, intimidation and even violence when they can’t pay the money back.
“The aim of our stall was to speak to people about local policing in general as well as put the spotlight on loan sharks.
“There are lots of people at the moment who just don’t have cash. We want to reinforce the message that there are legal options out there
“Our colleagues at Birmingham Trading Standards are the national lead on this type of crime so we have teamed up with them in a bid to tackle the problem.
“We understand that people may be frightened to come forward but there are anonymous ways of reporting this type of serious and organised crime.”
Loan sharks lend money without having licence issued by the Office of Fair Trading.
They rarely, if ever, give any paperwork and if payments are missed they often use intimidation and violence to get money from their clients.
Nationally, through the Stop Loan Sharks Project, the Illegal Money Lending Team has secured more than 321 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 205 years’ worth of custodial sentences.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal money lending is a crime and will not be tolerated.
“Loan sharks often prey on vulnerable people, leaving them in misery and fear and with very little to get by on.
“If anyone is a victim of a loan shark, or knows of someone who is, we would urge you to speak to us in confidence, as we can help.”
If you have been a victim of or have any information about illegal money lenders operating in your area please contact 0300 555 2222 or text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003.