Cash confiscated from convicted loan sharks is being used to help people struggling financually to set up new credit union accounts.

The incentive, launched in Sydenham, is looking to encourage people to not resot to illegal money lenders and look to save for the future.

The partnership between the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and with Lewisham Plus Credit Union will hand out savings boosts to people with new credit union accounts.

The first fifty people to join Lewisham Plus Credit Union and make at least three monthly payments into their account will qualify for a savings boost of £25.

Tony Quigley, Head of Service for the National Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Illegal money lenders can have a horrific impact on our communities, and should never be used under any circumstances.

“We’d always urge residents to look at borrowing from safe and legal alternatives, such as their local credit union.

"Loan sharks may appear friendly at first and act as though they’re offering a community service, but don’t be fooled by this behaviour as it soon changes once monies are owed."

Ravi Ravindran, CEO of Lewisham Plus Credit Union, said: "We consider it our duty to provide people with affordable loans, so that they do not fall victim to unscrupulous lenders, who charge exorbitant interest rates.

"When borrowing from unauthorised money lenders, borrowers will fall further into debt and their financial situation will be worse.

"We encourage residents of Sydenham to take advantage of this incentive which awards members with a £25 savings bonus once they have saved for the required period. ”

For more information on how to become a member of Lewisham Plus Credit Union, call 020 8778 4738 or pop into branch to speak to an adviser at 262 Kirkdale, Sydenham, SE26 4RS.