After a spate of Atlantic shark attacks captured the news, Discovery Channel’s much anticipated Shark Week could not be more timely. Watchers will eagerly devour information on all types of sharks, from the docile whale shark to the infamous Great White.
But the Discovery Channel will miss the deadliest shark species of all: the loan shark. Loan sharks, in the form of payday lenders, claim three victims per second compared to aquatic sharks’ 75 per year.
No matter how slick the advertising, the reality of payday lending could not be seedier. What starts out as a way to cover such unexpected costs as a medical emergency or a car repair quickly spirals into an ocean of debt, with the average borrower rolling over or taking out a new loan nine times a year. This adds up fast when interest rates hover around 300 percent a year. Despite the small principal amounts of payday loans, they can actually drag their victims into bankruptcy.
Similar to payday loans are predatory installment loans and car title loans. Loan sharks have skirted state laws by replacing payday loans with installment loans which are really more like 400-percent-interest-rate payday loans rolled over multiple times. The most opportunistic usurers use car title loans, which are similar to home equity loans – except that the loan is often due within two weeks, the annual interest rate can exceed 300 percent plus fees, and nonpayment means you lose your car.
And unlike the shark attacks you see on Discovery Channel, there are surefire ways to prevent being a victim of these kinds of attacks. You can find a list of methods though National People’s Action, a community organizing group, which is hosting its own #sharkweek campaign.
The best way is to bring attention to the issue by filling the #sharkweek hashtag on Twitter with messages about the real shark victims. When viewers find their Shark Week programs interrupted by promises of fast cash and easy money, they need to know that shark attacks are not confined to water.