I attended a meeting today to get our community organized to fight the ill effects of predatory lending. The problem has become practically epidemic in recent years. Predatory lenders are those who prey on low income and vulnerable families. They take many forms, from rent-to-own stores, to subprime lenders, instant refund tax preparers, to pay day loan stores. On the one hand, I think, “How could people be so gullible?” Then I realize that people are gullible because they so want to believe that they can have the American dream. These predators feed them a line that they probably know in their heart of hearts is too good to be true, but they believe it. Sure, they can afford this house they want so bad. Maybe the payments are a little steep, or the interest will change next year. But that’s a long time off, and maybe the raise will come through, or a new, better job will come along, so it will be fine then. But it isn’t.
They believe that by getting an instant refund on their taxes instead of waiting 3 or 4 weeks like the rest of us, they will be able to pay off some bills. They don’t realize that paying bills a few weeks early robs them of money to pay even more bills if they could just wait. Or save for their kids’ education, or a new home, or some other dream.
They simply believe. I think people tend to believe other people tell the truth. When someone tells them not to worry about the fine print, or that it’s okay to sign that blank document they’ll fill in later, they believe they are honest, not trying to harm them or their families. How sad for them, and for our society, that there are so many would would prey on the poor, the elderly, the uneducated, the vulnerable. Are the rest of us powerless to help, or are the ones who would take advantage able to do that because we don’t speak up to end this horrible industry?