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New Campaign Launched to Tackle Online Loan Sharks

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have launched a new campaign aimed at tackling illegal money lending on the internet and warning of the dangers of online loan sharks.

The campaign comes amid concerns more people are falling prey to unscrupulous lenders online as statistics show one in five victims met their lender on social media in the first half of 2020.

Loan sharks are increasingly using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, to advertise their illegal loans and target potential victims.

These criminals will lure people in with seemingly attractive loan offers but will quickly resort to intimidation, threats and violence to enforce repayment and trap borrowers in a spiral of debt.

The campaign, titled #SharkFreeSurfing, will run across the Stop Loan Sharks social media platforms from 30th November to 6th December. It is hoped that the campaign will help encourage not just victims but the wider  community to report online illegal money lending activity.

The IMLT will also release short audio stories on the Stop Loan Sharks podcast platform to help people spot the many different tactics used by loan sharks and promote the support available to those affected.

How to protect yourself from loan sharks online
Know who you’re dealing with. If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a lender, take some time to do a bit more research. Check the lender is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If not, don’t borrow from them – report to the Stop Loan Sharks team.

Beware of loan adverts with no credit checks. Loan sharks have been known to advertise in community groups and on local selling pages. They may seem friendly and accommodating, but their behaviour can quickly change, and
you might be harassed or threatened if you get behind with your repayments.

Lenders must carry out credit checks to make sure borrowers can afford to pay back their loans. You should never hand over your bank details to strangers, even if they lure you with attractive offers. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Beware of any requests for your details or money. Loan sharks may ask for copies of your passport or pictures of your house, the street and your house number. Never send money or give card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.

If you suspect someone may be a loan shark or they are acting inappropriately, you can report them anonymously to www.stoploansharks.co.uk or by calling the Stop Loan Sharks Helpline on 0300 555 2222.

Alternatively, you can email the team reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk or access support via live chat on the website Monday to Friday between 9am – 5pm.


Women’s Aid Heart-to-Heart Fundraising Appeal

Black Country Women’s Aid is an independent charity which has supported survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence in the West Midlands for 30 years.

The sensitive and holistic support and refuge services help victims of domestic abuse, rape and sexual violence, child sexual exploitation, modern slavery and women involved with the criminal justice system, to escape from violence, cope with trauma and rebuild their lives.

There has been a rise in domestic violence since the beginning of lockdown. Coronavirus has led to increased isolation for all, making things much worse for victims who want help.

Black Country Women’s Aid is still open and giving support to victims. The organisation is asking you to support their fundraising appeal via Heart-to-Heart, a knitting challenge of Hearts and caterpillars.

The Heart-to-Heart Challenge was created to assist adults and children to get the help they need to overcome the trauma of violence, rape and exploitation.

To help get you started, see full details in the information pack.


Trading Standards Team Warning Against Coronavirus-Related Scams

Sandwell’s Trading Standards team is urging people to be on their guard against falling victim to rogue traders and distraction burglars.

Officers say that opportunists are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to knock on doors and defraud residents.

Reports include people posing as healthcare workers, offering to shop for older people, taking their money and not coming back, as well as the more usual attempts to carry out often unnecessary work to drives, gardens and roofs.

These rogue traders carry out poor quality and unfinished work, agreeing a price and then claiming more work is needed to increase the cost, they are very persuasive and often aggressive.

Council Leader Councillor Yvonne Davies said: “We want to warn people to be extra vigilant, don’t open your door to anyone that you don’t know.”

There are a number of coronavirus-related scams in operation.

Doorstep crime:
• Criminals are targeting older people on their doorstep, offering to do shopping. Thieves take their money and don’t return.

• Doorstep cleansing services offering to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Online scams:
• Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments putting people at the risk of identity theft. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people who are affected by coronavirus locally.

• Fake online resources – such as false coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing programme which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data.

A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.

Refund scams:
• Companies and websites offering fake holiday refunds to people who have been forced to cancel their trips.

Counterfeit goods:
• Fake hand sanitisers, face masks and coronavirus swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products are often dangerous and unsafe with some potentially harmful hand sanitise containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde) which was banned for human use in 2014.

Telephone scams:
• As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.

Residents are urged to stop cold calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.org.uk or by calling 0345 070 0707.

Donation scams:
• There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a coronavirus ‘vaccine’.

If you are thinking of making a donation, please think about your local voluntary sector which is always looking for additional funds.

Loan sharks:
• Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence.

If you or someone you know has been targeted by a scam please report it to Action Fraud online at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

For advice and information on how to check if something is a scam visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam

National Trading Standards is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to coronavirus-related scams through is Friends Against Scams campaign.

They provide free online training modules to empower people to take a stand against scams at www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk

Residents can contact Sandwell’s trading standards team by calling 03454 04 05 06 or online at www.sandwell.gov.uk/tradingstandards


Spotlight on Black Country Women’s Aid

1. Tell us what you do.
Black Country Women’s Aid  [BCWA ] was formed 30 years ago by a group of local ladies from West Bromwich who opened a small refuge to help women and children escape from violence and sexual abuse.

Today our charity has 6 refuges providing a safe place to stay, helping to re build and save lives.

Last year we supported over 8,000 women and children to overcome trauma and plan for their future. Our Refuge is more than just a bed, we help families to feel safe, re locate and get back on their feet through specialist support.

Our Domestic Abuse Team support victims in the community and at court.

We provide practical advocacy and specialist counselling to help victims of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse.

Our Young People’s Team support children and young people who have suffered domestic abuse, rape and sexual exploitation

We also offer safe refuge and community support to people trafficked to the UK for forced labour and prostitution through our Modern day Slavery Team.

2. What is your proudest achievement?
Making sure that whenever a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse presents across our borough needing help they can always reach us for support.

3. What is your experience of support received from SCVO
We have received great support with sign posts to funding, other partners, networking and advice.

4. What is the most valuable lession you learnt about working with people in Sandwell?
To Listen.

5. What are your plans for the future and some of the challenges you face?
Our plans are to raise our profile across The Black Country Area in order to raise funds for our vital work.

The statistics in the Black Country area are shocking for Domestic Violence and sexual abuse. We need local businesses and the community to help by making donations of food, toiletries, clothes, toys and money so we can educate our next generation and look after the people in our care.

Our challenge is to let everyone know how we are helping vulnerable people and children and gain local support. We also need volunteers to help us spread the message.

6. How can SCVO help you to support your organisation in the future?
SCVO has helped BCWA with many things we look forward to receiving your weekly updates and advice on new opportunities and information on other members so we can work in collaboration.

To find out more information on Black Country Women’s Aid please call 0121 553 0090 or visit their website by clicking here.


Contact Us

Email: support@scvo.info
Tel: 0121 525 1127

SCVO
1st Floor, Landchard House
Victoria Street, West Bromwich
B70 8ER