People should seek professional help from organisations like Money Buddies before turning to dangerous loan sharks, Armley Forum members were warned last night.
Norah Gibson, a trustee of Leeds-based money advice service Money Buddies, told the forum that while loan sharks may seem friendly at first, they can be very dangerous and charge up to 130,000% interest in some cases.
She urged people to come forward if they needed help of knew of anyone under the influence of a loan shark.
“People do not know where to turn and that’s where they can turn to loan sharks,” Norah told the public meeting. “A survey of people in rented accommodation shows that two thirds had less than £100 in savings, so if your washing machine breaks down you have a problem – and that was before the pandemic.
“Many people have exhausted their savings and are choosing between heating and eating – we’ve all heard about parents going without food so their kids can eat.”
Norah said the advice and support organisations like Money Buddies can offer in confidence will be a lifeline to many.
“Very often they pose as friends and they get to know who is in trouble,” she said. “The problem is that interest rates go up and up. I’ve heard some charge interest rates up to 130,000%, so once you are in their clutches you can be in for life.
“Some are really nasty and you could end up in real trouble. We have had someone in Bestow being attacked by a loan shark with a pick axe.
“There used to be a stigma attached to getting help with your finances, but that’s just not true – demand for services like Money Buddies has gone through the roof because many are strugling.
“Unless people come forward and say they are in the grip of a loan shark it’s difficult for us to help, so please do come forward and get some support. There are people on the end of the phone to help, and remember – you are under no legal obligation to pay a loan shark.”
Norah also pointed to services like Leeds Credit Union, which can offer affordable loans.
Where to get help
If you need help with your finances or loan sharks, go to the Money Buddies website at moneybuddies.org.uk or call 0113 235 0276.
There are also more than 30 drop-in sessions available across Leeds, including these in West Leeds:
Tuesdays: Armley Community Hub, Stocks Hill, 2-4pm
Wednesdays: Bramley Community Hub, Hough Lane, 1-4pm and Farsley Hub & Library, Old Road, 1-4pm.
Fridays: Hawksworth Wood Community Hub, Broadway, 9am-12pm and Pudsey Community Hub in Church Lane from 1pm-4pm.
Last month WLD reported on the soaring demand for support from Leeds Money Buddies.