An organisation committed to tackling loan sharks has urged people to be aware of the risks of borrowing money after the festive period.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) launched a campaign last month highlighting how loan sharks tend to target desperate victims during this time.

It was supported by Brent Council, which pointed out that it is a point of contact for those facing money troubles.

Cllr Tom Miller, responsible for stronger communities at Brent Council, said: “Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable members of our community and they do so especially around this time of year when there is so much pressure to spend money on gifts.

“We will not tolerate any illegal money lending. We have been harsh with tackling loan sharks in the past and will continue to ensure that criminals are not able to get away with causing misery to families.

“If you do feel trapped, there are a number of ways we can help. Please don’t feel loan sharks are the only option for you.”

The IMLT noted that the weeks leading up to and immediately following Christmas put some people under increased financial pressure.

The expectations surrounding extra gifts, food and celebrations mean people are at greater risk of turning towards loan sharks.

Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “Loan sharks are a scourge on our communities, taking advantage of people in desperate situations and trapping them in a cycle of debt and misery.

“This time of year is especially profitable for them as they prey of people trying to cope with the pressures of Christmas.”

He suggested that those who need to borrow money do so from a “responsible, ethical source” such as a credit union.

The IMLT advises that people try to save regularly to reduce the need for a loan.

It also suggests that they check any lender’s credentials on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website and never accept a cash loan.