MORE than 40 people throughout Wiltshire have opened a new credit union account which is being supported with ‘proceeds of crime’ funds confiscated from convicted loan sharks.

In a joint initiative with the Salisbury-based credit union, Wiltshire Savings and Loans, the Illegal Money Lending Team in England is sponsoring a bonus for the first 50 accounts to be opened.

The first 50 people to join Wiltshire Savings and Loans before October 31 and make at least three payments into their account will qualify for a savings boost of £25. So far, a total of 41 people have signed up to the incentive during August, September and October.

The scheme has been designed to encourage residents in North and West Wiltshire to start saving and make them aware of the dangers of borrowing from illegal money lenders.

An estimated 310,000 households nationally are borrowing from illegal money lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant rates of interest to trap people into a spiral of debt. Many loan sharks will resort to bullying tactics, such as intimidation, threats and even violence to enforce repayment.

IMLT England spokesperson Holly-Leigh Luckman, said: “There is still time for people to sign up for the savings bonus, as the deadline for opening new accounts is October 31.

“New members must save for three consecutive months to qualify for the £25 bonus. This will be deposited in to members’ accounts in January.”

The West Wiltshire branches of Wiltshire Savings and Loans have up to 600 members out of the credit union’s 2,000-plus members following the merger with North Wiltshire and South Wiltshire credit unions last December.

Clive Henly, Chairman of Wiltshire Savings and Loans said: “Like all credit unions, Wiltshire Savings and Loans is committed to helping people manage their money. When people save a little regularly, we can help them when they face an emergency or if they want to make a special purchase.

“Our interest rates are always kept low, and there never any hidden charges. Our credit union is owned and run by its members, ensuring that we always serve the local community.”

For more information on how to become a member of Wiltshire Savings and Loans, please call 01722 421881.

Savers are able to make payments and withdrawals at community branches in Bradford on Avon, Calne, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge, Warminster and Westbury.