Taxi drivers urged to avoid loan sharks to financially survive during the coronavirus pandemic

Bolton Council is issuing a reminder that self-employed taxi and private hire drivers may be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and should make efforts to find out if they are entitled to the help.

Cllr Adele Warren, Executive Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, said: “Undoubtedly times are tough for the self-employed and this includes the private hire and hackney carriage trade.

“We’ve had quite a few calls from worried drivers and we wanted to remind people that there is help out there.

“Please make the most of the support available.”

Taxi and private hire drivers are also being urged to avoid turning to illegal money lenders to make up for any loss of income during the pandemic. The warning comes from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a national Trading Standards team set up to prosecute loan sharks and support their victims.

A loan shark is someone who lends money without the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority. They are unregulated, often give cash loans without any paperwork, and charge extortionate interest rates. They may offer what appears to be a quick-fix small loan but in the long term, any money borrowed will come at a very high price and may lead to violence, threats and intimidation for those who fall behind with their payments.

According to Bolton Council, one case involved a loan shark who preyed on taxi and private hire drivers and lent money at excessive interest rates. Drivers were typically paying back at least £100 per week. To ensure these loans were repaid, the unscrupulous money lender took different forms of collateral, including spare car keys and an electricity payment card from one customer. In most cases, victims are introduced to the lender either through a friend, family member or because they are known in the community.

Victims believe the loan shark is offering them a service, but their behaviour can quickly change if repayments are not met. The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have already prosecuted loan sharks for illegal money lending, blackmail, threatening behaviour, violence, kidnap, drugs offences and rape. Cllr Adele Warren added: “Loan sharks are a blight on our communities, causing misery to lots of families. “Private hire and taxi drivers are a particular group being targeted during this pandemic. “If you think you’ve borrowed from a loan shark please get in touch with the Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence so they can help you.” The Team has had nearly 400 successful prosecutions resulting in 480 years worth of custodial sentences, and more than 29,000 victims have been helped. “Drivers have been threatened, intimidated, some have even considered suicide because of the impact that these loan sharks have had in charging exorbitant rates and then demanding the money back.

"I urge anyone affected by illegal money lending to get in touch for confidential support,” said Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT.

Image credit: Ross Campbell

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