You better pray that you’re not in a bad neighborhood if this should happen!
Imagine this scenario: You’re on an important trip miles from home and stopped in traffic, but before you can continue on your way, your car shuts down. You’ve got enough gas in the tank and no mechanical problems. But you’re stranded far from home because you’re a few days late on your car payment and the lender won’t let you drive until the debt is paid.
If this sounds like part of a dystopian future in which repo men are now cyborgs, it’s not. It’s happening today and becoming a big part of the new automotive landscape. Car dealers and automotive lenders are targeting those with poor credit by installing GPS-based kill switches, or starter-interrupt devices, on the cars that they sell.
The New York Times recently reported that about 2 million cars are now outfitted with such kill switches in the U.S., which is about one-quarter of subprime car loans, and creditors are not shy when it comes to remotely disabling cars whose owners are behind on their payments:
“Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. Others said their cars were shut down while idling at stoplights. Some described how they could not take their children to school or to doctor’s appointments. One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway.
“Beyond the ability to disable a vehicle, the devices have tracking capabilities that allow lenders and others to know the movements of borrowers, a major concern for privacy advocates. And the warnings the devices emit — beeps that become more persistent as the due date for the loan payment approaches — are seen by some borrowers as more degrading than helpful.”