Utilizing a piece of hardware called the starter interrupt device, credit unions and other types of loan companies have started mandating the use of such devices when an auto loan is issued to a customer with bad credit. Detailed by the New York Times this week, the starter interrupt device makes a car completely unusable and is activated after a customer falls behind on car payments. Likely operating over some form of cellular signal, the starter interrupt device can be activated by someone in the loan company’s office through a program on a PC or even through an application on a smartphone.
The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start. The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender. Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March. “I felt absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter. It was not the only time this happened: Her car was shut down that March, once in April and again in June. This new technology is bringing auto loans — and Wall Street’s version of Big Brother — into the lives of people with credit scores battered by the financial downturn.