Research, regulation, industry reports

Irony: Title loan ads pepper newspaper expose on title loans

Daniel Ray

What a great series that reporter Stephen Franklin and others at the Chicago Tribune have done about the ills of title loans and other forms of easy money. It’s called “Cashed out: A look at how the economy’s new trapdoors leave many struggling.” (Hat tip, Al’s Morning Meeting.)

The series chronicles how easy it has become for people to fall deep in debt by:

  • Signing up for payday loans that carry triple-digit annualized interest rates. In some cases, the APRs can be as much as 2,000 percent.
  • Taking out car title loans that let people pledge their car titles to get a loan, again at very high interest rates. In Illinois, Franklin points out, the state passed a law years ago to regulate short term loans of 60 days or fewer. The industry responded by changing its loans to 61 days and longer.

One of the key points of the series is that while predatory loans have been around a long time, as have economic downturns, this economic cycle is different. The ubiquity of the Internet has made getting a loan easier than ever: Push a button on the computer, and you can get a payday loan, or a title loan.

The Trib’s own Web site helps prove his point. The paper’s standard story template includes a Google ad product called AdSense, which attempts to place relevant ads into copy by scanning the words in the page and matching them with ads on the same topic.

Yep. That’s right. The online version of the expose about the evils of online title loans and online payday loans is peppered with links to online title and payday lenders. The ads will vary, but I’ve attached a screenshot of how one page looks today.


Update: This item has been chosen for inclusion in the Carnival of Personal Finance No. 163, a weekly compendium of the best personal finance writing in the blogosphere, hosted this week by You Need a Budget.


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  • Interesting read – I think its funny that the Chicago Tribune is also profiting from people with poor financial literacy. I wonder how much money that article generated from the ads.
    On the flip side, title loans don’t hurt everyone. Here is a good article from one of our staff members Car title loans online. We receive a lot of phone calls similar to this, but we also receive a lot of business from morons that just can’t seem to get their act together.