Predatory lending is the use of unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices by a lender during the loan process. Predatory lending specifically targets the less educated, the elderly, the poor and minorities. In reality, anyone can be a victim of this practice.
These lenders make huge profits by taking advantage of a person’s ignorance on how loans work. For example, a lender will lead a borrower to believe the interest rate is lower than it is, or that it can be easily repaid. These loans are usually backed by collateral like your car or home. When the loan goes unpaid, the lender can take possession of the collateral.
Is it Legal?
Not all predatory lending practices are illegal, but there are federal laws that protect consumers. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) makes it illegal to enforce higher interest rates or fees on someone because of their race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status or nation of origin. Also, the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) enforces restrictions and requires disclosure of high-cost loans from lenders.
What to Look For
Your best defense is to learn what to look for in a reputable lender:
- Are they licensed?
- Are they giving guarantees? No guarantees can be promised.
- Are they giving you time to review the paperwork?
- Are their interest rates and fees reasonable?
- Are there absolutely no blank spaces in the paperwork?
If any of the lenders you are looking into don’t check off any of these boxes, they should be avoided.
Other predatory lending practices to look out for are loan packing and flipping. Loan packing is adding unnecessary products to the loan like credit insurance. Loan flipping is when the lender refinancing of an existing loan into a larger one with a higher interest rate and fees.
Churning is also a big problem, mostly with payday loans. Payday loans aren’t illegal and they declare their high interest rates up front. How it works is a loan is given that the borrower can’t afford to pay back in time. Then, the lender will offer a new loan, with new fees and more interest. Once the second loan is agreed to, the churn is in process. Borrowers end up paying more in interest than for the amount the loan was originally for.
If you’re a victim of predatory lending, you can seek legal counsel to help your debt become manageable. The Law Office of Michael A. Ziegler, P.L. specialize in debt negotiation, and litigation. Michael Ziegler has served as an advocate at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid in the “Predatory Lending Unit”. We can help you recover if you’ve fallen victim to predatory lending. Call today at (727) 538-4188 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.