SOMERSET County Council and the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards are looking to create a specialist team to combat loan sharks.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team has been offered the opportunity to work in partnership in the Somerset area with the council and trading standards to help find and prosecute more illegal money lenders.

Various organisations involved will be attending the project launch presentation on June 25 at The Canalside, Bridgwater, where people can learn more about the impact of illegal lending and what will be done to tackle it.

The project’s attempts to crackdown on loan sharks has already resulted in more than 310 prosecutions leading to more than nearly 200 years worth of prison sentences for illegal money lending and related offences.

Around £55 million worth of illegal debts have been written off and nearly 24,000 victims have been helped.

Councillor David Hall, from the Trading Standards service at Somerset County Council, said: "I’m really pleased that the team will be operating in Somerset. Raising awareness of the problem of loan sharks and illegal lenders is a part of the council’s financial inclusion strategy and where evidence of crimes is found I am confident the team will take vigorous action."

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal lenders not only rip people off with extortionate rates of interest but resort to the most despicable methods to enforce their debts. We are sending out a clear message that this will not be tolerated.

“We would urge anyone affected by illegal money lending to call our confidential hotline on 0300-555-2222 as we can help.”

You can also report a loan shark by texting ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003 or email