Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

"Ocean-dwelling sharks attack only a handful of people every year in the U.S., but payday loan sharks attack more than 12 million hard working Americans each year." (Photo: Ian Burt/flickr/cc)

For This 'Shark Week,' Grassroots Alliance Targets Predators of the Poor

Payday loans 'trap 12 million Americans in a devastating cycle of debt annually,' National People's Action says

Nadia Prupis

At long last, shark week has come—that time of year when bloodthirsty predators get a moment in the media spotlight. Only it's not the shark week you're thinking of.

In time with the Discovery Channel's week of programming that portrays intelligent and social animals as the vicious butchers of the sea, the National People's Action (NPA), a grassroots coalition, is launching a campaign to highlight the payday loans that devour millions of Americans in a "devastating cycle of debt" every year.

From July 6-10, under the banners #SharkWeek and #StopTheDebtTrap, NPA will publish stories of "loan shark attack survivors"; circulate a petition calling for an end to the most deceptive and abusive lending practices; and hold on-the-ground events in 11 states, among other actions.

"The most dangerous sharks in America aren't found in the sea," NPA said on Monday. "They're the payday loan sharks lurking on neighborhood corners and on the Internet and they offer small dollar loans that take a big bite out of family budgets with interest rates averaging roughly 300 percent."

In addition to those kinds of dizzying interest rates, payday loans also use "deceptive terms, automatic 'rollovers', [and] staggering fees" to drain borrowers of more than $10 million annually.

"These sharks target their attacks. Storefront payday lenders are much more likely to target People of Color and low-income workers who can least afford these loans," NPA writes.
"The most dangerous sharks in America aren't found in the sea. They're the payday loan sharks lurking on neighborhood corners and on the Internet and they offer small dollar loans that take a big bite out of family budgets with interest rates averaging roughly 300 percent."
—National People's Action

Previous studies have found that payday lenders are much more likely to set up shop in predominantly black and Latino communities than white communities.

In its first feature of the week, NPA shares the experience of a woman named Candice, who was forced to use a payday loan at age 23 to make ends meet after her work cut her hours. But soon after taking out one loan, Candice found herself trapped in a cycle of debt, as the sky-high interest rates on one loan forced her to take out another just to pay it back on time.

In one year, Candice was near bankruptcy, had lost her car and apartment, and had missed out on job opportunities.

But Candice is just one in 12 million Americans who fall victim to similar predatory lending schemes every year, according to NPA.

"Loan shark attacks are a financial disaster for millions of hard working families," the NPA states. "Payday borrowers are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as households with similar incomes who were denied a loan and 92% more likely to become delinquent on their credit cards or lose their bank accounts."

While the NPA campaign is timed to coincide with the annual television event, it also comes in anticipation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) releasing a new rule on small dollar payday loans, which is expected to come out this fall.

To that end, NPA is calling on the CFPB to issue "a strong, broad and effective rule...that will put a stop to the worst of these abuses."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·

'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·

80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·

Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Julia Conley ·

In 10 Key US Senate Races, Here's How Top Candidates Responded to Roe Ruling

While Republicans unanimously welcomed the Supreme Court's rollback of half a century of reproductive rights, one Democrat said "it's just wrong that my granddaughter will have fewer freedoms than my grandmother did."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo