Member Blog: Amber’s Predatory Lender Experiences

Posted January 27, 2016

My first experience with a predatory lender was back in 2006 and I went to the Cash Store which was in the Elmvale shopping mall. I was working at this time but was living paycheck to paycheck. I had 3 kids at home at this time and was pregnant for my 4th child, and money was tight and my partner wasn’t helping me financially. The company I worked for didn’t have benefits so I had to pay for medications out of my own pocket. I needed a loan and my bank wouldn’t help me so I went to the Cash Store.
Once you start loaning money at one of these places, it becomes a vicious cycle of monetary abuse as you have to re-loan every time you walk in to re-pay the previous loan. And each time I re-paid my loan I was losing like $100-200 in fees.
When I went on maternity leave to have my daughter I ended up defaulting on my loan re-payment as there was a 4-6 week gap between getting my last paycheck and my EI benefits starting. The Cash Store aggressively went into my account numerous times to withdraw money in various amounts to cover what I owed; at times this took away from my rent and food money. If one of these payments went back NSF not only did the bank charge me, the Cash Store would charge me a $100 NSF fee. Finally after some negotiating I was able to pay off what I owed on the principal amount and was able to get some of the NSF charges waived, this was all done verbally over the phone, however when I asked for this in writing my request was originally refused, and eventually I got this in writing. So after all was said and I done I ended up having to close my bank account and open a new during all this, and at the end of it all I ended up paying $1200 on a loan of about $400-500. I did not go back till 2013.
In 2013 while visiting family in Toronto, I went to a Cash Store to borrow $300 + 60 fee. When this location went into my account to take the money, they did so not once but 3 times in the span of about a week totalling $1080. They owed me back $720, and was giving me a really hard time to get it back. Every time I would call the manager would get nasty and insulting with me, and told me if I needed the money so bad I should drive to Toronto to get it, and this was not an option nor should I have had to.
This brought me to going back to the Cash Store at Elmvale to see if they could help me. The staff had changed since my first experience there and the new staff was very nice to me and eager to help me. It took a bit of time but finally I got my money back, but I had to get a re-loadable VISA card which cost me something like $25 a month plus $5 to load the card. My file was then transferred back to the Cash Store on Elmvale from the Toronto location.
A short time after this I found myself going back there to loan money as I now had 6 kids at home and 2 of them have medical issues, and medication was costing me a fortune. I was working, but again no benefits to cover these costs, and I had, and still have multiple visits to CHEO and doctors appointments for my son. I initially started loaning solely on my paycheck, but then I also started loaning on my CTB, (which I later found out should not have happened it should have been either or). The Cash Store at some point changed their policies on lending and became a brokerage company and not a payday loan company, (which they still were) they just changed the way they functioned so they could slip under some of the policies and charge more fees. I was now paying interest, brokerage fees, $5 to load my VISA card, and $25 a month for this card because it was the only way to get your money. This new brokerage system was not well taught to the employees of the Cash Store and they were very frustrated with these new policies and procedures, and left room for many errors to occur, my second monthly loan. In 2014 my contract ended and I couldn’t keep up with all the payments, so I went to a different place called Cash Street on Montreal Rd, to loan money to pay the other place, this didn’t not work and I got into a real bind financially and just  couldn’t keep up. I ended up owing so much money that it caused me to file for bankruptcy in Aug. 2014. This left me feeling frustrated, depressed for a while, and left me with a sense of failure and worthlessness.
I have also had to rely on rent-to-own stores to buy furniture, as living paycheck to paycheck, or on a fixed income one may have a difficult time saving the money or may need something rather urgently and don’t have adequate time to save the money.
These places are very damaging not only to us financially as they are destructive not only in the short run, but in the long run on our credit. They are also damaging to us physically and mentally therefore we desperately need an alternative to banking as what we have now are the only places that we as low/moderate income wage earners and those of us on a fixed income can turn to for financial help as the big corporate banks won’t even look at us. 
By Amber Slegtenhorst, Ottawa ACORN leader