A NEW dedicated advice site is being launched in a bid to support Scots who are struggling to deal with loan sharks.

The Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit (SIMLU) has set up the website in order to provide dedicated advice and support amid a fight against a rise in lenders moving online.

SIMLU has also expanded its network of organisations who are operating in communities to help residents in reporting illegal loan shark activity safely.

The new recipients of the Stop Loan Sharks Scotland Charter Mark are social enterprise Scotcash, and charity Grampian Regional Equality Council (GREC). The two have been recognised for their “commitment in supporting and promoting the work of the SIMLU and for taking a zero-tolerance stance on illegal money lending within their communities”.

The aim of the charter mark is to create a network of organisations actively seeking to uncover and tackle illegal lending and to stop people from ever using loan sharks in the first place.

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The unit reports that throughout the pandemic, many illegal lenders have made a move to operating online, using social media adverts and messages to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable.

While such loans can be seen as providing a quick solution for those in crisis situations, the lenders may not be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority and could charge huge interest rates.According to SIMLU, on average, loans from illegal lenders end up costing three times as much as a legal loan.

Fiona Richardson, chief officer of Trading Standards Scotland, said: “I am delighted that Scotcash and Grampian Regional Equality Council have signed up to the Stop Loan Sharks Charter Mark. We have been working with Scotcash over a number of years to tackle the problem of illegal money lending and we have been working with GREC over the past year on a prevention project.

“By signing up to the Charter Mark, both organisations confirm their ongoing commitment to work with us on this problem.

“We will work together to promote the message that you should not use loan sharks, but also to make sure that, where somebody has ended up using an illegal money lender, they know where to go to receive the appropriate help and assistance.”

Richardson added: “In a period of great financial uncertainty, it is important that we take all the steps we can to stop people from borrowing from loan sharks and getting trapped in a cycle of debt and intimidation.”

The unit’s new dedicated support and advice website can be accessed at www.stopillegallending.co.uk