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Pledge to keep money safe as warning over loan shark threat spreads wider
6:00am Sunday 6th October 2013 in News
WOULD you credit it?
Herefordshire Housing (HH) has gone into banking, with a pledge to keep savings “as safe as houses”.
HH boss Peter Brown says the move is right on the money, with the government ready to put millions into new credit union schemes.
The county’s long-running Money Box credit union, which HH has taken on, will be one of the schemes to benefit.
Now, Money Box is investing in an ambitious recruitment drive to stick the knife into loan sharks bleeding county families dry.
Within the next 12 months Peter, as Money Box chairman, hopes to have 2,000 members signed up.
“If we can get just one per cent of Herefordians to become members, we’ll be able to offer more services and facilities,” he said.
Leading the way this week was Hereford Times editor Fiona Phillips.
She said: “I chose to sign up to the Credit Union because it really is a people’s bank.
"Profits are returned to users as dividends, your money is safe and is used to help local people get their finances on track.
“My savings are going to be labelled ‘Fiona’s Shoe Fund’, but people use their Credit Union to save up for all kinds of things, and can also get loans at great rates which means they don’t have to resort to dodgy lenders. It is a brilliant community initiative.”
HH linked up with Money Box a year ago and has spent the time since upgrading the scheme – with about 400 members on its books – for wider appeal.
Money Box provides loans to members at as little as two per cent per month and over longer periods. As a financial co-operative, any surpluses generated are paid back to members as a dividend.
Money Box is one of 30 credit unions named in the second wave of a national expansion project.
That, says Peter, means Money Box can not only maintain a focus on the “specific needs” of members, but work together with other credit unions in pooling knowledge and resources.
As Money Box looks to expand, warnings about loan sharks operating in the county are being spread wider.
The Newton Farm Community Association (NFCA) – backed by Hereford Times and the England Illegal Money Lending Team – says there’s a way out when the sharks start circling.
Loan sharks are illegal moneylenders, and Richard Johnston, chairman of NFCA, said any individual or family facing impossible interest repayments and related threats can come to NFCA at its Hereford office in The Oval in confidence.
“People can come to us to talk, but if they don’t feel comfortable doing that right away, then just talking to friends and family is a start,” he explained at a meeting discussing illegal lenders last Friday.
“It is important not to get confused between loan sharks and legal money-lenders, but dealings with loan sharks can end up in threats and violence if debts are not paid.”
Tim Thorne, Herefordshire Council’s principal trading standards officer, said: “Loan sharks will appear friendly at first, but this quickly changes when they trap their borrowers into spiralling debt.”
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