By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Money experts say ’tis the season for some to get stuck in predatory loans – landing people in debt that can be tough to get out of.

One local man ended up owing almost four times what he took out, and his car was repossessed.

“It was my truck, and then we gave it to our son one year for his birthday, Christmas and graduation all together,” said Darrell Scriven.

His beloved pickup truck – with his last name on his personalized plate – was repossessed on his son’s birthday this year.

“They came and took the truck and said that the loan was not paid off and they were repoing the truck,” he said.

The loan was from 2017 – a personal loan through Westlake Financial that the Scrivens took out. They used the truck title as collateral.

“We had to move suddenly, so we needed to cover some moving costs at the time, so that was the only way we could do it,” said Scriven.

He says he was told he needed to make a monthly payment of $360 to pay off the loan.

“They are the ones who set that amount for the three years,” Scriven said. “So I figured like any normal loan, after three years, it would be paid off in full.”

More than $12,000 later, and almost three times the loan amount, Scriven thought the loan was paid off.

But it wasn’t.

And Westlake wanted Scriven to pay an additional $4,400 on the loan, plus $675 to get his truck back.

Turns out Scrivens was paying 78 percent interest. The director of California Center for Responsible Lending says people like the Scrivens, with poor credit, have limited options for borrowing money.

“They are going to be taken advantage of by very high interest rates, by the finance charges,” said the Center’s Marisabel Torres. “It’s why when you make payment after payment for 36 months, you barely make a dent towards the principal amount of the loan. That is predatory lending.”

As of January 1 of this year a loan like Scriven’s is illegal. California passed AB 539, which caps the interest on loans between $2,500 and $10,000 at about 38 percent.

But since Scriven got his loan in 2017, it doesn’t apply to his loan.

Torres encourages borrowers in that situation to submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is the federal agency in charge of overseeing lenders.

She also recommends filing a complaint with the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI), which is the California state regulator.

Westlake Financial would not comment on Scriven’s case, but after CBSLA’s Kristine Lazar repeatedly contacted them, and got the BBB involved too, they agreed to waive the fees and give him his truck back – just in time for Christmas.

For more information:

Regulators to contact:

https://www.Consumerfinance.Gov/complaint/

https://dfpi.Ca.Gov/

Help with loans for those with poor credit:

https://neweconomicsforwomen.Org/
https://www.Self-helpfcu.Org/locations/locations-california/los-angeles-loan-center

Things to look out for when you apply for a loan:

Steering- pushing you to a larger loan than you need.

Make sure to have everything in writing.

Make sure the lender is licensed.