When Mary Bolender's young daughter fell ill with a high fever, the mom knew medical care was needed fast. Instead of going on a quick trip to a nearby Las Vegas emergency room, the family's minivan sat dead in the driveway. But it wasn't a mechanical failure that kept them from potentially lifesaving medical care. The mom's auto lender had engaged a remotely operated kill-switch on the family car.
Bolender was only three days late on her car payment after taking off work to care for her sick daughter. To get a subprime auto loan, she had accepted a "starter interrupt device" installed on the car. It allows the lender to remotely deactivate the car's ignition switch when a payment is late.
You might say that it's all Bolender's fault for being late on her payments or for having bad credit in the first place, but according to payment records she wasn't officially in default any of the four times her loan company shut down her car. According to some legal professionals, it's a predatory scheme. The New York Times reports:
“No middle-class person would ever be hounded for being a day late,” said Robert Swearingen, a lawyer with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, in St. Louis. “But for poor people, there is a debt collector right there in the car with them.”
But there's something even scarier than Mary Bolender's situation, and it could deadly dangerous for the borrower and anyone around him or her in traffic.