While many factors threaten financially strapped South Carolinians, one of them can be corrected by legislators: unethical, nevertheless legal, predatory lending. Lenders can charge up to 299.88 percent annually.
The situation came to my attention through the experience of a long-time friend.
In March, a hard-working, responsible woman who put three children through college and now supports only herself, needed cash; so she borrowed $1,515 from one of these lenders, giving up her car title as collateral. Her interest rate, shown on her loan agreement, was 155.4961 percent. By November, the eight payments she had made, totaling $1,557.34, had not touched the principal.
Then her employer closed his business after Hurricane Matthew, so she was desperate again, along with being afraid of losing her car to the lender. When I learned of her predicament, I felt I had to help her, so with a final payment from me of $1,585.80, she got her car title back.
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It is disgraceful that the S.C. General Assembly has repeatedly declined to outlaw such operations. Lobbyists and campaign contributors from the lenders always have overwhelmed decency.
Millions of South Carolinians work for incomes that give them no margin for emergencies. That we allow these exorbitant interest rates for small loans to our fellow citizens is outrageous. There is no justification for the haves to take such advantage of the have-nots.
I am going to ask my state representatives for their take on this problem. Are you OK with lenders charging that kind of money? If not, contact your legislators.
Hilton Head Island