My lender debt shamed me until I stood up for myself

By Winnie Nyambura

Reviewed by Kimberly Rotter

Jan 31, 2024

Read time: 3 min

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No one is born financially smart, and it can be hard to spot a dubious scheme when you see it for the first time.

Here’s how I was debt-shamed because I didn’t know how to avoid a predatory, high-cost short-term loan.

I was struggling as a freelancer and debt was piling up

In 2021, I began working as a freelancer while trying to manage life as a single mom. I didn’t have a partner to help manage the bills, and because I was new in my career, I didn’t have an emergency fund as a safety net. At one point, money was so tight that I couldn’t even pay for groceries. So I researched a few payday loans and was excited to qualify for one. 

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I thought a short-term loan was my best solution 

I signed up for a short-term loan with a 1-week repayment timeline, but I was surprised at the high cost of the loan. The lender attached high interest rates and additional fees that I was not aware of.

After receiving the loan, my relief was short-lived because of the aggressive collection tactics that quickly followed. Just four days into the loan payment timeline, they began sending reminder messages. On D-day, I received numerous messages and calls reminding me of the deadline. I was upset with the calls and texts because they were constant and overwhelming. 

I felt trapped and helpless

I woke up to threatening messages the day after the agreed payment date. One of the messages stated that they would text people on my contact list about my debt. 

This was the moment that I regretted that I had allowed them access to my contact list. During my application process, the lender informed me that access to my contacts was required if I wanted to get the loan. However, at the time of borrowing, I had no option. I couldn’t sit and watch my son go hungry. I was a single mother. 

I soon began receiving calls from different numbers. Anytime I blocked a new phone number, they would switch to a different one.

Since I was struggling financially, I wanted to communicate with the lender. That’s the wise thing to do. Unfortunately, this company wouldn’t listen. All they wanted was their money.

I felt backed into a corner. At one point, I remember feeling like I was going to have an anxiety attack from the endless worry that plagued my mind.

Read more: How can you make debt collectors leave you alone? 

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The debt-shaming felt like bullying

After three days, the company began texting my contacts, including:

  • My employer 

  • My grandmother

  • My pastor

  • A long-time friend

The message from the lender stated that:

  • I had refused to pay the debt

  • I had placed their names as guarantor

  • They were responsible for paying the remaining balance

At the time, I didn’t know they had texted people, so I was still trying to find a way to settle it.

My employer and long-time friend forwarded the messages to me. They were upset and rightfully so. 

I felt like my world had been crushed. I was ashamed and embarrassed. These were people who really knew me, and now they were privy to my debt struggles. I decided to send an apology text to the two. One responded, but one went into silent mode for about a week. 

Read more: Coping with financial hardship

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My inner circle provided the support I needed

The next day, my pastor called me to find out how I was doing.  He knew from previous conversations that I was on a healing journey (from a broken relationship, severe depression and anxiety, and re-building my life). While having the conversation, I decided to ask for his forgiveness and see if, by any chance, the company had texted him. 

He said he understood and asked me not to borrow from these types of companies. He also asked how much the amount was and helped me pay it off. I swore on that day that I would never borrow from payday lenders.

Two months later, my grandma asked me about the message she received from the lender in front of my cousins and aunt. I felt the embarrassment come over me again but I shrugged it off.

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Money problems led me to prioritize financial education

Besides this debt-shaming incident, I was experiencing other financial challenges. Some include budgeting difficulties, living beyond my means, and not understanding the need for an emergency fund.

In the next year, I discovered how financially illiterate I was, and I started researching personal finance and building up my financial education. I looked for solutions to help me become financially stable, not costly quick fixes.

Last year, I decided to focus on being a personal finance writer to provide practical tips to people like me on social media.

Now I’m working on a beginner personal finance book to help other individuals who are struggling with the basics. 

Winnie Nyambura

Winnie is a personal finance writer. She also shares financial education for beginners on her social media platforms.

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Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.

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