A suspected loan shark has been arrested on suspicion of running an illegal money lending operation.

A number of electronic devices were seized from a 23-year-old during a raid by specialist investigators concerned about his suspected illicit enterprise across the Teesside area.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) worked in partnership with officers from Cleveland Police to execute a warrant at an address in the Billingham area.

Tony Quigley, head of the ILMT, said: “We will not tolerate illegal money lending in England and we will continue to work with our partners to tackle these ruthless criminals who blight lives and communities.

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“If you have been offered a cash loan and then threatened when you couldn’t pay, or if what you owe keeps growing even though you are making payments, you may have been targeted by an illegal lender.

“If you or anyone you know is in this position then contact our team in complete confidence. We are here to help you.”

The IMLT works in partnership with Stockton Borough Council Trading Standards to investigate and prosecute illegal money lenders.

In a report published last year, Swimming with Sharks, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) revealed that there could be up to 1.08 million people in debt to illegal money lenders in England.

Many face threats and intimidation, with some illegal lenders demanding sexual favours as repayment from borrowers.

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Illegal money lenders appear friendly on the first meeting, and may even be known to the victim, but the IMLT is urging people to look out for the following warning signs:

• Giving you no paperwork or agreement on a loan

• Refusing to give you information about the loan

• Keeping items until the debt is paid such as your bank card or passport

• Taking things from you if you don't pay on time

• Adding more interest or charges so the debt never goes down

• Using intimidation or violence if you don't pay

Anyone with concerns about illegal money lending can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.