LOAN sharks are set to be targeted by County Hall.

Essex County Council has signed a charter to tackle the problem in partnership with the England Illegal Money Lending Team.

Housing organisations and district councils are also teaming up to raise awareness of the issue.

Loan sharks offer cash before trapping victims into spiralling debt, and use threats and violence to enforce repayment - sometimes by taking bank cards with the PIN to directly access borrowers’ money.

Paperwork is rarely offered and interest rates as high as 131,000 per cent have been recorded.

An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark.

Roger Walters, county councillor for Trading Standards, said: “Loan sharks prey on some of the most vulnerable people in society causing unimaginable stress to people who have limited finances. We are very supportive of the work in the battle against loan sharks and wider criminality.”

Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 300 prosecutions leading to more than 190 years in jail-time for sharks.

They have written off £42 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 23,000 victims.