Ethan Rabidoux | columnist
I’ve been told all my life that there’s no such thing as easy money. Lately, it seems like every billboard or bus shelter advertisement suggests otherwise.
We’ve all seen the ads from the various payday loan companies suggesting you can get $100 immediately for only a dollar or some other slimy variation on the same basic pitch. I didn’t give them any attention until I had my own run in with these vultures.
At the start of this year I began receiving weird letters in the mail from companies like Cash Money out of Toronto. Having never dealt with them, I didn’t even bother to open the envelopes thinking they were one of those scams claiming I had won the lottery.
Then I started getting phone calls from their collections departments. Having done debt collection to pay my way through school, I put them in their place quickly but learned that someone had used my information to set up bogus accounts with a number of different payday loan companies. They did this all online and never even had to step foot in an actual bank.
I went back and opened the letter from Cash Money. According to them, they had given me $600 on December 27, 2013. By the time they sent me their letter dated January 6, 2014, that sum of money had increased to $1,286. Of course, this wasn’t “interest” because that would be usury which is illegal. Instead, they dinged me with huge NSF and late fees which our government permits.
To make sure this is clear: the loan to a fraudulent account more than doubled in six business days. Check out the calendar in case you don’t believe me.
When I reported this to the Stratford Police, the officer who handled my file informed me that the reason payday loan companies gauge customers like this is because the system is rife with fraud and default. This is to cover their losses. The onus was then on me to prove the account wasn’t mine. I even had to get a letter notarized by an attorney.
What century are we living in?
Payday loan companies market themselves to the working poor as a quick source of money in desperate situations. They then trap them into a cycle of indebtedness that compounds at breakneck speed.
This kind of parasitic, predatory pursuit of profit is something out of a Charles Dickens novel. Payday loans are a multi-billion dollar industry in the West. They are immoral and completely unnecessary.
One alternative would be postal banking that would enable the poor to open bank accounts, cash cheques and borrow money in a responsible, ethical and controlled manner.
This is already being done in many other industrialized countries but it requires a postal system to do it. As we dismantle the profitable and efficient Canada Post purely for ideological reasons, this option becomes tougher to implement.
Another alternative would be to pay workers a living wage so they wouldn’t be driven into the clutches of vampires just to make ends meet.
Payday loan companies have managed to fly beneath the radar of public scrutiny for far too long. I suspect it’s because their victims are the weakest among us who don’t have a voice. Luckily, there is someone standing up to them now. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is leading the charge. He has denounced them from his pulpit repeatedly and is trying to organize an ethical, or dare I say it, Christian approach to banking for the least fortunate.
Why haven’t other members of the clergy demonstrated the same moral courage and righteous anger?
We are soon going to enter the Christmas season and my Facebook feed will be filled with outrage that people are taking “Christ” out of the holiday.
I agree; political correctness is obnoxious and annoying.
However, if you’re more outraged by “happy holidays” than you are by a banking system that extracts billions from the meek of the earth, you’ve probably already taken Christ out of Christmas and every other area of your life.