Friday, March 19, 2010

Confessions of an Auto Finance Company Employee

So last Friday morning we were awakened out of our sleep by somone laying on our buzzer! If you've ever been awoken out of your sleep by any loud sound whether it be a baby crying, smoke alarm or whatever then you know how it leaves you in that sort of panic state. So I stumbled to the living room and politely, asked who was at the buzzer. Naw I'm lying I think I said something like "who the hell is this?"

The respondant stated they were with some auto recovery place and they were looking for the previous tenant. I yelled back they don't live here or something to that affect. They persisted to ask where he lives now and is he in another apartment. I again yelled I don't know, but he doesn't live here. They tried to again aggressively question me through the intercom. Finally, they said well this is unit ___ and we have his car on the tow truck. I was about to say I don't give a.... "wait what kind of car is it?" (I'm good but I was half sleep so you know I had to just make sure. lol) He replied "A Mercedes Benz." I yelled back "oh ok well whatever he don't live here bye!"

After that I looked at the time and it was like 4am. I was left unable to go back to sleep for probably another hour. Mind you I get up at like 6:40am. But in the end I guess I found it kind of funny, just because of what I used to do for a living. So as a treat to all those that may be struggling in this down economy I decided to re-post the blog below. Some tips that may help you out if you're in the same spot as my man with the Benz.
To begin, this is an anonymous posting. It is coming from a person that has expertise in this field/industry and felt the need to help out some individuals by giving out inside information. Use the information as you choose and at your own risk. We assume no liability for what happens based on you using or not using the information...

As we all know today's economy is not what it was 8+ years ago. People are really struggling now a days. They're getting laid off from work, they're in debt, and barely able to keep their head above water. In some cases they're unable to afford food to eat let alone keep a roof over their head or a car to get around in.

Well I work in the car finance company and I have witnessed the people struggling to pay high car note payments. It's hard out here for everyone. And when you're put into a situation as to whether you keep a roof over your family's head and food in the fridge versus to pay a car note payment well it's a simple choice as to which is going to fall by the way side. However, business is business and well the Finance Company is in business to make money and if you're not going to pay for whatever the reason may be well they have no choice but to do what they have to do. And ultimately that decision will be to come looking for their collateral which is the car and or truck or motorcyle.

Well I've been in this field for over 5 years and I've seen and done it all when it comes to car financing and repossessions. However, I'm just the low man on the totem pole so I'm just like the average person. Possibly a paycheck or 2 away from being a victim of the same fate. Therefore, I am writing this confession in an attempt to hopefully help some unfortunate individuals avoid the Repo man. Keep in mind I am not advocating or urging anyone to not pay their bills. Paying your bills on time is always the right thing to do. But just in case anyone finds themselves in a rough spot given these tough economic times well here's a guide to hopefully help you out some. If this doesn't apply to you then be happy but anyone can fall on hard times. But if you can't utilize this information you may know someone that can, just pass it on.

First off keep in mind that all Finance Companies are different in the way they operate. Some are more lenient and allow you to go further behind and will work with you more than others. While some are much stricter, especially given that many customers are no longer paying. Therefore, use this only as a loose guide.

Always keep in contact with the Finance company as soon as a problem arises and you can not pay. If you just got laid off make sure that you contact them immediately. Usually most finance companies offer some type of payment deferment for situations like these where you can skip 1 or 2 months payments at least once a year. Therefore, my first bit of advice is even when times are tough and you're not able to pay for whatever the reason to always keep in touch with your finance company. Of course once you get behind they will without a doubt begin to call you. Although no one like to talk to bill collectors, keep in mind that this isn't a credit card, phone bill, or any other unsecured account. Your vehicle is that company's security. So if they feel at any point that their security is is jeopardy they have the right to come and get it. So if they call answer the phone or if they leave a message return the call. The fastest way to end up on the Repo list is to lose all contact with your finance company. They will assume that you've purposely stopped paying. So when they call you let them know you are not neglecting the car note and plan on paying as soon as you have the money to do so. However, do not make false arrangements that you know you can not keep just to get them off of the phone. Breaking arrangements is also another swift way to get put on the repo list. Also, if you're required to have full coverage insurance on your vehicle then a lapse in your insurance will also bring about the red flags and may even cause them to put forced placed insurance on your vehicle at a higher cost than you providing your own insurance.

So let's say you've exhausted all your means of help meaning you've gotten extensions on your payments and you're still unable to make your monthly payment. Well most companies will make a decision on whether to repo once a person is at least 30 days past due. This means that say your due date is the 20th of each month and you've missed last month's payment. Well when the 20th of the present month comes along you're officially 30 days past due and are technically due 2 payments. Most customers feel like I'm only behind on the last month's payment. However, the finance company will look at it as 2 payments behind and based on your previous payment history (how many payments total and made on time), the value of your vehicle vs. the amount you still owe (if your vehicle is almost paid off it's likely to be worth more money), and sometimes even your attitude towards the collectors when they call you will all determine if you go out for repo. So I would use the 30 day mark as a range of when you can start to suspect your vehicle may be out for repo or about to be put out. At that point you should begin to implement the rules I've listed below.

1.) Keep it Garaged!
If you have a home with a garage then whenever you're home always make sure your vehicle is in the garage. Technically by law a repo company can not enter your garage without a court order (we'll discuss that later). However, that doesn't stop some grimy repo companies from attempting to go in your garage depending on what type of garage you have. Therefore, if you have a garage with windows on it you should cover up the windows so that no one will be able to see inside. Just keep in mind that a repo companies are powerless if they can not find your vehicle. The most they can do is try other clever ways (keep reading) to attempt to retrieve the vehicle.

2.) Keep it Fenced or Blocked In
If you do not have a garage but have a gated or fenced in driveway or hard then you're in just as good a shape. Although they can see the car because of your gated driveway they can not remove the vehicle. Just make sure you have a heavy duty lock and or chain because they are not above trying to cut a lock. Also if you don't have a fence but say you have more than one vehicle or live with a group of people then you can essentially block your car in. The idea is to make sure it's blocked in nice and tight though. Although they are able to most likely easily obtain a key for your vehicle, they are not going to be able to tow 4-5 vehicles out of your driveway to get to yours. Nor will they risk trying to drive it out or tow it out for fear of damaging the other vehicles.

3.) Switch Cars
If you are not fortunate enough to live in a house with a garage or if you work at a job that doesn't have secured parking this may be the best option for you. If you have someone that is willing to help you out ask them to switch vehicles with you. They drive your car and you drive theirs. However, please remember that when you applied for this loan you filled out a reference sheet with 3-5 people you put down as a personal reference. You supplied a name, phone number, and address for those individuals. So make sure that the person you switch with is not on that reference list. I would venture to say that switching cars is probably the most effective way to avoid the repo man. Because they essentially have no clue who has the vehicle. They may know exactly where you live and work and how to contact you. But if you are not driving the vehicle they are looking for then that information is useless. However, as you keep reading the person you switch vehicles with will need to keep some things in mind as well.

4.) Cover it Up.
Although this is not as full proof as switching cars or keeping it in a garage it can possibly be a temporary fix for those of you without garages. While standing on the outside of your car if you look in the front windshield on the far right at the bottom there is a little notch inside there are 17 characters (numbers and letters). This is your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). This is how they can officially identify your vehicle as being the one they have out for repo. Another way to identify is by plate #. Well if you keep that number covered with a paper or something from the inside it makes it difficult to identify if they have the right vehicle. So they may spot a vehicle that fits the description of the one they have out for repo but if they can't verify that VIN then some companies are reluctant to repo the vehicle for fear of repossessing the wrong one. However, keep in mind that if you simply have it covered there's nothing to stop them from popping your lock and removing the paper you have there. Remember they are a towing company and have the tools to do so. You can try to remove that Vin # from the panel but I don't know the difficulty of doing so. Also, another extreme means would be to paint your vehicle a totally different color. I'm not sure what a paint job runs now a days but I guess if you had the money for a paint job you'd pay the note.

Another indicator of whether or not it is the correct vehicle is the plate #. Repo companies utilize license plate numbers all the time. This is why the switcharoo described above is still not full proof. If you're spotted driving your friend's car or if your friends car is always parked in your driveway then there is nothing to stop them from running your friend's plate #. Once they do it will come back to your friends name and they can then retrieve the friends address. So I would recommend keeping the plate # covered up or removed while parked in your own personal drive way. Now if you do that while parking on the street or in a public parking area you will risk getting ticketed which will bring about other problems as you keep reading.

5.) Avoid Tickets
If you or even if you have switched vehicles with someone it is important that you and that friend avoid getting ticketed for any reason. The reason is because there is a way (At least in the City of Chicago) that you can check to see if a vehicle has received a parking ticket or a red light violation ticket. Once that information is obtained there is a way (which I can not disclose) that the finance or repo company can find out the exact location of where that ticket was given. So say you got a ticket for expired plates or no city sticker while you were parked over your girl's crib. Well they can then find from that ticket your girls address and in turn attempt to repo you from there. Also, the red light violation tickets are online as well. Some you can actually view the video of you running the light. It may be harder to indicate where you were going at the time but it can at least pin point a radius of the area you are in. Also, remember that if for whatever reason your vehicle is booted due to excessive tickets it can then be impounded. Once a vehicle is impounded the finance company will receive notice of this. There is usually about a 3-7 day lapse as to when they receive notice though depending on the city you're impounded in. So if you are impounded and know that you are behind on your payments you better get the vehicle out of the pound right away. Because once the finance company receives notice they will immediately go and pick up the vehicle.

6.) Don't Run Your Credit
Unless you're trying to get a loan that will pay your car note up to date I would avoid having your credit report ran or applying for any new credit. The reason being that any new information you give such as a job, address or phone number will most likely appear on your credit report next time it is ran. And keep in mind that you signed a credit application allowing the finance company to run your credit and they can do so in order to find you or find out information about you. Also, say for instance you just opened up a new account with a new creditor there are ways (which I can not disclose) that they can get the information you provided on your account to that new creditor. Including your current address, phone number, and job information.

7.) Home for the Holidays
Remember I mentioned those references? Well unfortunately you may want to avoid visiting them in your vehicle that is out for repo especially on the holidays. That is right finance and repo companies will some times make it a point to check certain addresses on holidays. If they have your mom or grandmom's address they will run it on a holiday hoping to catch you visiting on Thanksgiving, Christmas or 4th of July. Also, speaking of references if you have any bad blood with any of the people you've put as a reference you may want to quickly make amends with them. Because when it boils down to it they will not hesitate to snitch you out to the repo or finance company. I've seen bitter baby mama's and ex-girlfriends do it a lot. And just know that the finance company is not above offering financial restitution [A bribe] in exchange for information on where you or their vehicle is. What's a couple hundred dollars when it will lead to them recovering their vehicle worth thousands of dollars.

8.) Trap Cards
There are plenty of tactics that can be used to get you to call and once you do they will try to fish for information. One of these tactics is called using a trap card. The repo company will leave a card and or letter at the address stating something that will get you to call them. Once a company we utilized left a card indicating that they were trying to deliver a package to the customer. Well the customer called them back stating she's not home during the day and to deliver the package to her work. Well needless to say that information was used to repo the vehicle and there was never a real package. So if something sounds too good to be true it usually is. Also, with this you should avoid answering unknown/blocked calls, or calls from numbers you do not recognize. If you must return a call check the next tip on how to respond.

9.) Use a Payphone
If for any reason you decide to or have to contact the finance company it's best to do so from a payphone. I know they're kind of hard to find now a days but it will keep them off of your trail. Don't try to use your friend's phone or anyone else because they will find out who's phone you're using. And with today's technology even if you call in blocked or (*67) they can still get the number you're calling from. And if you call from a number they don't have already even if it's a friend's phone they will find out the name and address that number goes to. There are ways they can even text message you with hopes that you respond.

10.) Change of Address
If your vehicle is out for repo they will try to find you at any and every address they have associated with your account. Even old addresses you didn't even know they had. So, if you've moved from a previous address you may not want to put in a change of address with the post office. If your finance company sends a letter to your previous address then the post office will send a change of address back to the company. And you know they'll be looking for you at your new address.

11.) Don't Answer the Door
Just as with answering the phone for unknown callers don't answer the door either. Repo agents will come right up to your door and knock to get in touch with you. Some agents may use aggressive or scare tactics in order to reach you or to obtain the vehicle. For instance some agents carry badges but the badges are simply repossesor badges. But obviously they're hoping that you or the person that answers the door will think it's a police badge. I've even heard of agents lying saying that the vehicle was involved in a hit and run accident with hopes someone will give up some information. So if you have a peep hole use it and don't answer the door for any unknown individuals.

12.) Be on the Look out
Most people think of repo and think tow truck. Well now a days repo agents don't drive the traditional tow trucks. Some have high tech vehicles that look like regular pick up trucks. Also, as I mentioned they can get a copy of your key very easily. So some times they will travel in a regular car hoping to spot your vehicle and simple drive off in it. So, if you're on the look out you'll want to look for anything supsicious not just a tow truck driving down your block.

If you follow the above rules and tips you should be able to avoid the repo man for a time being. Again, this is not a guide for someone to rip off the finance companies even though they may have ripped you off (should've read the fine print). But if you're in a bind and need to buy yourself some time in order to get your finances together then these things may indeed help you out. The last thing that I want to discuss is something that can be a consequence of avoiding the repo man too long. Of course you can face adverse credit ratings, and possibly having your wages garnished. But if the vehicle is expensive and worth a lot to the finance company they can obtain what is called a Replevin. Basically a replevin is a court order in which the finance company has obtained which allows them to demand that you give them the vehicle back. Once this court order is obtained and served to you by a sheriff officer you must surrender the vehicle within the specified time or you will basically be arrested. So, again utilize the above info only to buy yourself time don't go into the business of ripping off finance companies.



mrs. mary mack said...

Thanks for the tips! LOL I may need to go pay my car payment now...

Brothers Blog said...

No prob. But yeah You better pay it's getting cold out. Don't wanna be footing or bussing it in the winter. LoL.

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