Thursday, September 25, 2014

The virtual repo man...

This morning, I read about scary new technology that allows creditors to shut off a car remotely simply by accessing a computer or a smart phone.  This technology is mostly used by lenders who sign off on subprime auto loans for people with less than stellar credit.  In exchange for the loan, the debtor has to agree to allow the creditor to outfit their car with a "starter-interrupt device".  Then, if the debtor doesn't pay their car loan on time, the creditor can disable their vehicle.

Besides allowing the vehicle to be disabled, the technology also allows creditors to track where the cars are located.  That means the creditor will be able to tell if the car is parked at home, at a work location, or somewhere else.  Safety and privacy issues have already been raised by this creepy equipment.  A woman in Nevada reported that her car was disabled while she was driving on the freeway, which caused her to almost have a serious accident.  And the equipment is programmed to alert the debtor as his or her bill due date approaches, which is annoying and humiliating.

When Bill and I first got married, his credit was terrible.  It was mainly because he trusted his ex wife to pay their bills and she didn't.  Their house went into foreclosure and they went through bankruptcy.  By some miracle, he was able to buy himself a used Dodge Neon, replacing the unreliable K Car he'd inherited from ex's stepfather or father, can't remember which, when he helped pay for the funeral.  Bill later gave that Neon to his former stepson after having paid it off.  Former stepson repaid Bill by screwing him over.

As I read this article, I realized that Bill could have been forced to use that degrading application had his financial issues happened when the technology was available.  It was hard enough recovering from his financial mess without something like that to make things more difficult.  I know there are true deadbeats out there, but it seems really unfair to people who just happen to have bad luck or have made a mistake to force them to give up their privacy and dignity so they can buy a car.  Perhaps the solution is living in an area where public transportation is readily available.  Of course, housing in those areas is also usually more expensive.

I think this technology can and will been used for good things, like tracking pets.  And I imagine it might be useful for parents who are trying to keep track of their kids.  But what's next?  I know some homes have keyless locks now.  Are mortgage brokers or property managers going to start locking people out of their homes if they're late with the rent or the mortgage?  Seems like a potentially slippery slope that can quickly turn into hell for regular people, especially since it's not unheard of for mistakes to be made.  This technology may make life easier for bill collectors, but it comes at a huge price to those who need to borrow money.

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