Loan Shark Attack
True tales about New Mexico loan store abuses and how they were resolved.
It started with a broken ankle, and a $500 payday loan, and ended in a three-year ordeal that cost Elliott and his family more than $30,000.
When his wife slipped on some ice and broke her ankle, Elliott needed to find a way to pay for the hospital bill. Running short of options, he took out a loan from a payday lender. Two weeks later, with his wife sidelined from work with no disability or insurance, he had to roll the loan over – and the cycle began. One loan turned into two, into three, as each needed to roll over to pay that initial loan – plus $50 fees and interest.
He never missed a payment on the loans. But with all of his income being sucked away through fees and crushing interest rates, something had to give.
That something was his house.
The bank repeatedly refused to work with the Marine Corps veteran, and when payments started slipping below the required minimums, they foreclosed.
All from one broken ankle. And one payday loan. (Communities Creating Opportunity - activist website)
Oscar Wellito: Took out a $100 signature loan from a New Mexico lender after going bankrupt. The amortized one year loan had total finance charges of $999.71. He and his children lived on his $9 an hour job at a local grocery store. (NM Supreme Court Records)
Henrietta Charley: A single mother of three, Henrietta took out a $200 signature loan from a New Mexico lender that carried total finance charges of $2160.40. Her monthly take home pay was $1,300, and her monthly expenses before food and gas exceeded $1,000. (NM Supreme Court Records)
Ben Francisco: Ben lives on the Navajo reservation near Gallup. Now in his mid nineties,he only recently retired.
He went to a storefront lending shop when his daughter fell ill with cancer and he needed gas money to drive her to her treatments. He took out a hundred dollars here, then another couple hundred there, and soon he was in way over his head. At the beginning of each month, Francisco turned over his retirement and social security checks to the lenders. But that left him without enough money for food or utility bills. His payments on the loans, which had triple-digit interest rates, ballooned until he couldn’t pay them.
Medicaid would have covered Francisco’s daughter’s transportation to medical treatments. But low-income people often aren’t aware of programs and services that are available to them. KUNM News, "Problems Linger for Borrowers of Fast Cash" by Ed Williams, March 5 2015.
Fastbucks Customer: Incurred a repayment obligation of $4,680.48 on a $934 installment loan. (NM District Court Records)
Single Mom: Evicted from public housing with her two children for non-payment of rent, she had sufficient income. Unfortunately she had taken out a triple digit payday loan to buy school supplies for her children. When she could not pay back the loan she tried to cover the payments with additional triple digit installment and title loans. The combined payments left no cash to pay the rent. In addition, her transportation to work was at risk because her automobile was now subject to potential repossession. (New Mexico Legal Aid Gallup Office)
Retired Woman, Two Dependents: Took out a secured installment loan for $556.82 in 2010 at 106% APR from World Finance. Three years and thirteen loan rollovers later she had made $4,813 in payments on total borrowings of $1,497 and still owed $2,400 at final default. (New Mexico Attorney General)
Veronica Teico: After my son was born, money was tight at my house. One day my brother came over and offered to take us to a payday lender for a loan. The payday lender told him that for every family he could bring in to get a loan, the payday lender would pay him $25.
We got a loan for $500 in 15 minutes, it felt too good to be true. The loan came due in two weeks and we owed the $500 plus over $80 interest. My husband and I pooled all our money together and took the $580 to the payday store to pay off our loan. Paying this much at once was very hard, it meant we were going to go without until the next payday.
But when we walked into the payday store to pay our loan, the lady at the counter said “would you like us to re-loan this $500 to you?” We never asked for another loan, they offered it to us and we said yes. The lady at the counter was so happy for us and this loan was even faster than the first one. When we went to pay that loan back two weeks later, not only did they immediately offer to re-loan the money to us, they also offered to pay us $25 for any family we referred to them for a loan.
...We fell for it. We referred a family member to them and we got $25 cash for making that referral. That $25 helped, but it didn’t come close to helping pay off the $80 we owed the payday lending every two weeks.
After a year of being stuck in payday loans, my husband and I went to a credit union near my work and applied for a loan. Come to find out, we have pretty good credit!
We got a loan that allowed us to pay off our payday loans and buy a good used car. The credit union charges us 6.5 percent APR for this loan, instead of 459 percent on the payday loans. I was so proud to get a good loan, but also ashamed that I had wasted so much of my household income on payments to the Payday store. (personal testimony, Hawaii payday store)
Elderly Disabled Veteran: Persuaded to take out several small storefront loans to help a friend, he could not afford to repair a gaping hole in the wall of his home through an entire winter. Nearly all of his substantial veterans benefits had been going to interest on loans he had not been able to pay off for years and now he was destitute and living in uninhabitable conditions. (New Mexico Legal Aid, Gallup Office)
Sean: Took out a one month $1,500 title loan and renewed it over 40 times spending $11,500 in interest and fees before his family helped pay off the principal. (Martin & Adams 2012)
Auto Title Loan Borrower: Borrowed $1,071 in April 2010 on a one month title loan. Rolled loan over a total of eight times at 96%-106% interest increasing the loan amount to $4,790 before defaulting in May of 2011 and having automobile repossessed in 2012. (New Mexico Attorney General)
Pregnant Mom: Forced to skip meals because her food stamp application could not be processed while a storefront holiday tax anticipation lender held her 2013 tax return hostage until she made full payment on what it claimed she owed. (New Mexico Legal Aid, Gallup Office)
Steve: Researching for the New Mexico Fair Lending Coalition, Steve posed as a borrower at three installment lenders in Las Cruces during May 2014. He told the stores he was an injured construction worker living off of $1,500 government disability and needed to borrow $500. Two of the stores offered loans requiring ten payments of $100 every two weeks for a total payback of $1,000 over 20 weeks. The APR was about 600%. The third store offered a four month installment loan at 187% APR.
Elderly Navajo Woman: Took out a loan at 60% interest in 1999 to cover basic living expenses. Over the next 12 years she continuously rolled over the loan and added new ones to cover the unpaid balances until she had six outstanding loans. By the time she asked for help in 2012, her monthly payments were larger than her gross employment income and she was going without firewood to heat her home. (New Mexico Legal Aid, Gallup Office)
Consumer TY: Took out twelve unsecured installment loans between July 2007 and March 2009. He spent $2,017.18 in interest and fees on an average loan balance of about $300. He defaulted on the last loan and his credit was dinged for a $381 bad debt.(New Mexico Attorney General)
Fastbucks Customer: Incurred a repayment obligation of $2,303.71 on an $800 installment loan. (NM district court records)
Zuni Working Woman: Paid $800 per month to service 11 separate small loans. At $1,600 per month in net income, she was unable to pay down the loan balances. (New Mexico Legal Aid, Gallup Office)
Borrower DM: Took out six sequential installment loans between April 2009 and November 2010. The average outstanding loan balance was about $400. DM paid a total of $5,548 in interest. (New Mexico Attorney General)
Borrower HH: Took out four installment loans from November 2007 to November 2008. The average loan balance was about $225. HH paid $1,974 in fees and interest. (New Mexico Attorney General)
Steve: Researching for the New Mexico Fair Lending Coalition, Steve posed as a borrower at three title loan stores in Las Cruces New Mexico during May 2014. He told the stores he was an injured construction worker living on $1500 per month government disability and needed a $1,000 loan. Two of the stores offered interest only loans with payments of $250 per month until he could scrape up an additional thousand dollars to pay off the principal. There was no limit on how long the loan could go on. The third store offered an 8 month loan at 182% APR. All three stores required him to turn over a set of car keys before they would fund a loan.
Tammy, Trudell & Rose: Filing joint suit against storefront lender Cash Cow for holding onto their birth and social security certificates for months and sometimes years as collateral making it difficult to access social services. This is a common practice around Gallup, NM. (Navajo Times, 12/11/14)