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Spent: Looking For Change (Documentary)

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Spent: Looking for Change is a film about everyday Americans without the financial options most of us take for granted and the movement giving them renewed h… […]

Bradford pupils learn lessons about loan sharks


Bradford pupils learn lessons about loan sharks

Children at Woodside Academy in Bradford who have been learning lessons about borrowing from loan sharks

The dangers of borrowing cash from loan sharks are now being taught at Bradford primary schools.

Woodside Academy is the first to work with the England Illegal Money Lending Team to ensure children understand the consequences of using illegal money lenders.

Despite their early age, pupils are being taught about borrowing money safely and managing money effectively.

Education packs have been developed to fit into many areas of the school curriculum including maths, English, art and design, drama and citizenship.

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COMMENT: Lessons in dealing with loan sharks

They are based on real-life situations and are designed to explore a range of issues, including spending money, safer lending and borrowing, the dangers and potentially horrendous consequences of using loan sharks and how to choose more alternatives and make better financial decisions.

And the hope is children will become financially savvy and avoid getting into difficult situations in later life.

The scheme is part of a community project called Smart Life which is taking place in the Royds ward in Bradford.

Woodside pupils have also been working with a professional theatre company, Altru, taking part in a ‘Play in a Day’ – funded by the the Illegal Money Lending Team – to help drive the messages home.

Head teacher Jane Browne said some pupils’ families had first-hand experiences of the consequences of borrowing money from loan sharks and the school had decided to use its annual money week activities to focus on the dangers.

“It is part of what we do as an academy to prepare our children for their future lives,” she said.

The Illegal Money Lending Team works in partnership with Trading Standards services across England to prosecute loan sharks and to support the people and communities that are affected by them.

David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards said: “This is a brilliant way to get children engaged in the serious subject of loan sharks.

“Educating pupils in a fun and interactive way while warning them of the dangers of dealing with illegal money lenders that blight our local communities at a young age, will better prepare them for adulthood”.

Bradford Councillor Val Slater, who is chairman of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, praised the educational packs which have been produced by the Illegal Money Lending Team.

“They have been created by schools and teachers who understand the need to educate young people about money and safe saving for the future,” she said.

“The young people will carry the message home and encourage parents, who may be in difficulties, to seek help and support”.

In 2012, the Telegraph & Argus reported how parents picking their children up at one Bradford school were being threatened by loan sharks’ ‘heavies’.

The head teacher told how she had to intervene when a thug with a bull terrier harrassed a distraught young mother for cash as she picked up her child.

Similar problems had also been reported at other schools and led to head teachers holding meetings to devise ways of tackling them.

Anyone with information about loan shark activities in their community has been urged to contact the Illegal Money Lending Team helpline on 0300 555 2222.

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Don't ever borrow cash from evil men like this

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The Sunday ECHO today reveals the murky world of illegal loan sharks, who prey on debt ridden families.

Our inquires have revealed how ruthless the shady, often violent, lenders can be once borrowers are unable to make their payments.

Some have even threatened the children of people in their debt, our inquiries reveal.

Experts are warning that February is a peak time for those who borrowed cash over Christmas to find themselves preyed upon by loan sharks.

Fears have been raised vulnerable families at this time of year could be feeling the effects of overspending at Christmas and may either have already resorted to, or be considering going to, loan sharks.

A specialist team launched to crackdown on those lending money illegally has been working with councils across Merseyside. Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, told the Sunday ECHO: “Research shows 20% of victims in past cases stated they borrowed in the run up to Christmas.

“No matter how desperate you are for cash, loan sharks are never the answer. It may seem like a small loan to tide you over but it can quickly spiral, and you could end up repaying the loan for many years to come.

“There is also a real risk that you and your loved ones could be subjected to intimidation or violence.”

Loan sharks are unlicenced lenders who are usually contacted through word of mouth, or in places like pubs and bars.

There is always a huge interest rate, often no paperwork, and they even take things for security, such as passports and driving licences.

When borrowers start to struggle, the crooks often take their bank cards and pin number so they can try to make withdrawals on the account.

The issue is so bad in Wirral the council has this month held a loan shark awareness week.

Cllr Brian Kenny, Wirral’s cabinet member for the environment, told the Sunday ECHO: “There have been instances in Wirral where loan sharks sit outside people’s houses and say to them, ‘We know you have two children at the local school’.

“They intimidate them and make them feel frightened, not just for themselves, but for members of their family.

“Some are involved in other criminal activity such as drug dealing and very often these loan sharks turn out to be really nasty people.

“They can cause absolute misery for the people they lend money to.”

Some of the cases that have gone to court tell their own story about the sinister people involved.

A dangerous loan shark, former Liverpool doorman John Radford, who stashed an “arsenal of weapons” in his leafy detached home in Liverpool, was last November jailed for 30 months for illegal money lending.

He exploited the vulnerable by lending out hundreds of thousands of pounds at high interest rates – locking his victims into a spiral of debt.

When detectives raided his home, they uncovered a pistol loaded with five bullets in a kitchen cupboard and two bags of ammunition in a locked letterbox.

Gun found in loan shark John Radford’s house

They also found a haul of other weapons, including machetes, knuckle dusters and red pepper spray.

A violent loan shark who lived the high life while exploiting desperate families, he was ordered to pay back his ill-gotten gains last June.

Gerald Daord, 53, charged one customer an exorbitant 2,752% interest on a loan – 161 times more than an average credit card – in a four-year period of illegal money lending. The Birkenhead crook was jailed in 2012 for 16 months but returned to the dock last summer as a judge stripped him of illicit profits totalling £110,000.

Earlier this month a 43-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending and grievous bodily harm. It came as the England Illegal Money Lending Team, working in partnership with Warrington and Halton council, executed a warrant at a residential address in Widnes.

The suspect was taken into custody and questioned before being released on bail until Wednesday, June 11.

How to spot a shark, where to get help

EXPERTS have warned Sunday ECHO readers NEVER to borrow from loan sharks, and revealed just how these crooks:

Start out being friendly – they are often heard of via friends.

Offer little or no paperwork.

Increase the debt or add additional amounts.

Refuse to tell the borrower the interest rate, how much they still owe or how long they will be paying.

Take items as security – including passports, driving licences or even bank or post office cards with the PIN to withdraw directly from borrower’s accounts.

Resort to intimidation, threats or violence.

And here are four ways to report a loan shark in confidence:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222.

Text “loan shark + your message” to 60003.

Email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

Send a private message at www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

Anyone having problems with debt is advised to contact a reputable national organisation for help, including Stepchange Debt Charity Helpline on 0800 138 1111, or National Debtline on 0808 808 4000.

Mum’s fight for tragic son

CAROL Highton didn’t even know what a loan shark was until her 22-year-old son took his own life after being pursued by one.

Brian Shields killed himself in 2005 at his home in Halton Brook after a debt of £300 rocketed to £3,400 in only a matter of weeks.

Carol set up the Brian Shields Trust to stop other families ever going through the same thing.

Brian Shields

The charity helps people who fall foul of loan sharks and offers advice about safer ways to borrow.

Last year, Ms Highton received an MBE in recognition of her services to personal finance and community support.

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Read our review from one of the gigs of the year: Prince at the Manchester Academy

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Nordea eyes more cash for shareholders in face of low growth

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Nordea , the Nordic region’s biggest lender, is primed to return excess cash to shareholders as loan demand stays weak for one or two years, the head of the bank said on Wednesday.

Nordea and its Swedish peers wrapped up 2012 with good profitability, high levels of capital and promises to divvy out more cash to shareholders after several years of building buffers to meet regulatory demands in case of a new crisis.

Swedish banks are now some of the most well-capitalised lenders in Europe with core tier one capital in the teens.

But slower economic growth at home in Sweden means that most Swedish banks will prioritise capital returns over new growth.

“We have low loan demand, so we don’t need to grow our capital very much which suggests we will probably repatriate quite a lot of our income to our shareholders,” Chief Executive Christian Clausen told reporters at a seminar organised by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

“Right now, the demand is extremely low, therefore the capital we build can be repaid,” he said.

After generating a net profit of 3.1 billion euros in 2012, Nordea retained 1.3 billion to build up core capital and plans to return some 1.4 billion to shareholders through dividends.

Clausen said there would be cash for shareholders this year.

“In the previous four to five years a lot of the earnings have been to build capital, and the rest have been dividends,” he said. “But if you don’t have to build capital anymore because you are there, then of course a substantial amount is available.”

Nordea will ask for a buyback mandate at its annual general meeting in March.

After a strong start to 2012, Sweden’s economy may have contracted in the fourth quarter and Nordea expects loan demand to remain sluggish.

“Our estimate in the next year or two is that loan demand will be very low because households are not borrowing a lot and businesses are not investing because they are waiting for consumer demand to come back,” he said.

Nordea, which wants to keep its core tier one capital level above 13 percent, reported a level of 13.1 percent at the end of the fourth quarter.

Swedish banks offer a stark contrast to banks in other parts of Europe which are still struggling to boost their balance sheets and raise core capital.

Clausen said he thought European regulators would move towards core tier one capital requirements of 10 to 11 percent. Sweden’s watchdog wants its banks to hold 12 percent from 2015.

(Reporting by Mia Shanley and Oskar von Bahr; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)

[…]

Andy Schultz grew his ambulance company with RLDC help

ROCKFORD — Andy Schultz had a million dollar idea, but not nearly enough cash to start a private ambulance service in 2005.

He was doing decent, but not spectacular, business after paying cash for a used ambulance and hiring five employees. First he mortgaged his house, then got a second mortgage. He was in panic mode soon after tapping his credit cards for cash.

But everything changed after he walked into the offices of Rockford Local Development Corporation, which introduced him to a banker and provided him an additional loan to fill the gap.

ATS Ambulance Service is based in Loves Park. The Material Avenue building is nondescript, but the business Schultz has grown inside it is anything but.

Schultz employs about 200 people and “we’re in 14 locations in seven states,” he said.

The firm has service contracts with corporate businesses, local governments and the federal government. The company has been tapped for five hurricane deployments, most recently working three weeks on the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy.

The future looks bright for the private ambulance industry, Schultz said. The Great Recession has forced the public and private sectors to trim costs and deliver services more efficiently. Outsourcing is the name of the game.

ATS provides fire and emergency medical services for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s mammoth campus in Indianapolis and serves all 911 emergency calls at West Point Military Academy in New York, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Schultz’s company also provides ambulance and paramedic service to the villages of Rockton, Winnebago, Durand and Polo.

A consultant told Rockford city officials in 2011 that outsourcing paramedic services could save the city $1.6 million a year, but the idea has faced scrutiny from aldermen and the city’s firefighters union.

“Rockford Fire Department” is a bit of a misnomer; nearly 80 percent of its service calls are for medical assistance, not fires.

Schultz said he couldn’t have built his company without a loan from RLDC.

Where does he see himself in five years?

“Retired,” said the 44-year-old Schultz with a chuckle. “I see myself retired.”

Isaac Guerrero, 815-987-1361; iguerrero@rrstar.com; @isaac_rrs

[…]

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