READERS may know that I have raised the issue of illegal money lending and the growing problem of pay-day lenders.

We’ve all seen the adverts on TV and some of us would have noticed the small print at the bottom of the screen where the enormous interest for a loan is revealed.

And it is not only legal pay-day lenders that are causing distress to people. Every year, thousands turn to illegal money lenders.

Recent benefit reforms, including the bedroom tax along with the economic climate have led to an increase in people taking extreme measures to make ends meet.

The Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit suggests a dramatic increase in the number of people in Wales turning to loan sharks. In just one case highlighted by that organisation, 400 victims across south Wales are said to have suffered.

Since the creation of the illegal money lending unit in 2008, they have investigated a total of 187 alleged loan sharks, involving more than £2.5 million pound in loans. It has taken proceedings against 35 defendants with 11 receiving prison sentences.

The unit has revealed that 75 per cent of people who use loan sharks are on benefits and 65 per cent of victims are women. Forty per cent of victims have some form of mental or physical disability with a shocking 46 per cent considering the loan shark a friend.

Community Housing Cymru and the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit have teamed up for their ‘Don’t Get Bitten’ campaign to combat the problem of illegal money lenders. A TV advertising campaign will be launched from the 13th of this month to highlight the dangers.

The ‘Don’t Get Bitten’ campaign which was launched in the Senedd, urges people to get in touch with the illegal money lending unit in strict confidence.

I am very pleased that Community Housing Cymru have joined forces with the Illegal Money Lending Unit to highlight the problem of loan sharks and unscrupulous lenders, with the ultimate aim to form a ‘coalition against usury.’

They hope that this coalition could include the government, the church, trade unions and other stakeholders and would raise awareness and provide advice through the existing money advice projects.

I’ve previously drawn readers’ attention to alternatives to high interest lenders and illegal loan sharks. Credit unions cover all parts of the country and provide an ethical and affordable means of credit.