With people in our communities furloughed, losing their jobs, unable to maintain their self-employed incomes, or take as many shifts as they used to, many people are experiencing financial hardship. Cornwall Council is reporting more people falling into council tax arrears, and people who have never had problems with it before being unable to pay, and Citizens Advice Cornwall is reporting families and individuals experiencing financial hardship for the first time, too.

Here is some collected advice to support people who are in debt, and to help protect people from Loan Sharks, and scams.

Debt advice

Citizens Advice has extensive information pages around debt, and where to get support if someone is experiencing problem debt. Cornwall Council has links to local support organisations, including Citizens Advice Cornwall.

  • Citizens Advice debt and money advice page including info on
    • paying bills
    • debt solutions (eg bankruptcy, etc)
    • budgeting
    • mortgage problems
    • rent arrears
    • borrowing money
    • dealing with creditors
    • banking
    • pensions
    • financial advice
    • gambling
    • tax
  • Cornwall Council debt advice
    • help or advice (Citizens Advice Cornwall contact details and others)
    • plus links to info about Loan Sharks, and where it is possible to borrow money legally
  • The Government’s Money Advice Service pages for people struggling with debt

Loan Sharks

The Loan Sharks reporting line is 0300 555 2222.

Loan Sharks offer often cash loans, without paperwork, with high interest rates to vulnerable people, and will often threaten those who cannot pay, or take their bank card, passport or other valuable items to secure the loan.

Stop Loan Sharks can help people to report loan sharks, confidentially, and help those who have been caught by them.

If someone is lending money, they must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. Search their database to see if the lender is legal or call Stop Loan Sharks on 0300 555 2222 for help.

Loan Sharks and dating apps

Loan sharks are using dating apps and social media sites to trick people into taking out loans. These criminals are trapping victims in a cycle of debt and misery and enforcing repayment by blackmail and threats of violence.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team launched a campaign this week to raise awareness – see their press release for full details, and please do share their social media posts around this (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) or use their toolkit to create your own.

Loan Sharks partner scheme

The England Illegal Money Lending Team have recently launched their Partner Recognition Scheme. They work with numerous partners, including many in the voluntary sector, all over the country, and want to reward them for the work that they do in partnership with the team.

To find out more, including a self-appraisal tool, check their website, or see the brochure below.

Scams

Being scammed can be a humiliating and costly experience. Anyone can fall for a scam. They arrive through the post, by email, as a fax, over the telephone and on the doorstep. Most scams are, quite simply, fraud and the perpetrators are criminals.

Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards department has some information about how to recognise and avoid scams, and is happy to give talks about avoiding scams to local groups.

They also have a detailed page of scams that are linked with the coronavirus and changes in people’s activities at this time, including ones around fake PPE equipment, doorstep sales, solar panels, puppies, and more.

Independent Age has a list of Coronavirus scams, which is updated as new ones emerge.

How to recognise a scam

It might be a scam if:

  • it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s much cheaper than you’d expect 
  • someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • you’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
  • you’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union
  • you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
  • you haven’t had written confirmation of what’s been agreed

Citizens Advice also has signs to help recognise online scams.

If someone has been scammed…

If someone has been targeted by a scam it can be reported to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, visit the citizens advice website.