Quick Cash — At A High Price

Strassmann--high-interest car loans
Strassmann--high-interest car loans
CBS

Home-care provider Felicia Scrubb was way behind on her bills. But the emergency loan that was supposed to bail her out became her real crisis, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

"I was raising three kids by myself. I didn't want to be homeless," Scrubb says.

She borrowed $450 from a so-called car title lender. It's a short-term, high-interest loan. Borrowers use a car they own as collateral.

The lender keeps your car's title, and sometimes, copies of its keys. If you fall behind on payments — an issue for many borrowers — you could lose your car, which is often worth much more than the amount borrowed.

Scrubb could barely pay the extraordinary 25 percent monthly interest, never mind repaying the $450 she had borrowed.

Five months after she took out her loan on Christmas Eve 2004, her car was repossessed.

"I mean, I was like, how am I going to get to work? How am I going to pay my bills? It was terrible," Scrubb says.

Her lesson learned?

"Just read the fine print," Scrubb says, noting "it was the interest" that got her.

Only 14 states allow car-title loans. Most states say they violate usury laws. The industry argues these loans help people who can't qualify for financing elsewhere.

Scrubb recently got a new car, but says the only one helped by her original loan was her lender.