A CAMPAIGN has been launched to tackle illegal money lenders – or loan sharks – operating across the district.

Behind the initiative is the Anti-Poverty Events Group (APEG), a partnership of eight organisations, which fears the practice is increasing as criminals seek to take advantage of vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic and with Christmas on the horizon.

As part of the Halloween-themed #LoanSharksAreMonsters campaign, booklets containing information and advice have been distributed through food banks, community groups, schools and partner organisations of APEG.

Funding for the project has been provided by Brelms Trust CIO, Bradford Council and the National Lottery Community Fund.

Artworks Creative Communities has been designing and distributing ‘Bundles of Creativity’ booklets since May, but the latest edition is specifically in support of the campaign.

Heading-up the events group is Bradford District Credit Union.

Its financial inclusion officer, Ian Brewer, said: “Loan sharks prey on vulnerable people who need financial help and this manipulative form of lending is often followed by intimidation and threats.

“Unfortunately, this is something we’re seeing more and more in the area. Only recently, someone was arrested in Keighley on suspicion of illegal money lending. Moreover, the Government’s illegal money lending team has suggested that the problem is only getting worse during the pandemic.

“All of this just emphasises the importance of the campaign, our community partnerships and the work of credit unions across the country to provide the right support and options for those who need it most. As such, this working partnership has been essential in driving innovative projects to reach the most financially vulnerable.”

Loan sharks and illegal lenders is just one issue that the Anti-Poverty Events Group tackles.

In the past year, it has created groundbreaking projects that have reached over 2,000 people through conferences, workshops and roadshows.

Also, Bradford District Credit Union now has 8,000 members – more than doubling in size in the last five years.

To report a loan shark, call the 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222 or visit stoploansharks.co.uk.