Labor & Business

How predatory payday lenders keep customers hooked

After paying off the loan, Kieran hoped to put the experience behind him, but then, starting in the summer of 2021, almost a year after he was clear of the payday loan debt, Kieran began receiving calls from the company at both his personal cell phone number and his work phone.
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Published on January 24, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

If that which conspires to silence poor people had hands, shame would be its thumbs.”
Julia K Dinsmore


“I was in my late 20s and working a couple jobs and I was not very secure financially,” said Cranston resident Kieran Wilder in a phone call with UpriseRI. “I had honestly never heard of these payday loans but a buddy of mine mentioned he had taken one out.

“I started with a $300 loan at Advance America in Cranston. You take out $300, you pay them $330. Going forward, I couldn’t afford to pay it back, so I took out another loan to pay the first one, and in total I did that, every two weeks, for about six months.”

That “easily” worked out to more than $360 in interest over the course of the series of loans said Kieran to UpriseRI.

“They have you give them a check when you take out the loan, the check to be used at the bank in case you can’t make the payment,” said Kieran, who never ran into an issue with bank overdrafts because he always renegotiated the loan.

“I always paid the loan off, I just needed to always take out another one to not run out of money,” said Kieran, who got out of the payday loan cycle with the help of his father, who ultimately loaned him the money to get clear.

After paying off the loan, Kieran hoped to put the experience behind him, but then, starting in the summer of 2021, almost a year after he was clear of the payday loan debt, Kieran began receiving calls from the company at both his personal cell phone number and his work phone.

“The first thing you think when you get the call is ‘Oh shit! Did I forget to pay it back?'” said Kieran. “But they basically just called to say, ‘Hey, do you need any money?'” Kieran had two of the calls on this phone and forwarded them to UpriseRI. They calls have been edited to removed the store’s preturn phone number.


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It took time for Kieran to overcome his reluctance to share his story. “Obviously I didn’t want to seem like a broke kid,” said Kieran. “I was embarrassed that I was even in this loan cycle. I was dating at the time and I wouldn’t let her see the paperwork. But enough time has passed that I am less embarrassed.”

“The ladies who work the counter at the payday loan company were super nice,” said Kieran. “I have nothing against them. I’m sure they are low-income workers too.”

Uprise RI reached out to Margaux Morisseau, one of the leaders of the Payday Lending Reform Coalition, which is planning to ramp up efforts against predatory payday loan companies at the General Assembly this session.

“The payday loan companies drain millions of dollars each year from Rhode Islanders,” said Morissau. “These predatory loans have been curbed in many states and now it is time for Rhode Island to end this usurious practice too. A 36% APR rate cap is the best solution. Voters overwhelmingly support this reform and you can bet this will be a big issue during this election year.”

Previous efforts to curb the punishing interest rates of payday lenders in Rhode Island were stymied by former Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello who maintained a close relationship with payday lending lobbyist William Murphy, who is himself a former Speaker of the House. Murphy is paid $30,000 a year to lobby for Advance America.

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