Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Why I no longer use mobile loan apps

Everyone has a time when they reach rock bottom. For me, it happened sometime early in 2023. I had taken up a foreign writing gig that paid per task, which meant my salary depended on how many articles I wrote. Well, it was all good, until an unfortunate thing happened in our family, forcing me to take a break from work and handle it.

It wasn’t the kind of thing that could be handled in a day or a week. It took about two months. Moreover, it required a lot of money to fix. I teamed up with my brothers to take care of the financial part, but the cost was still high. By the time the issue had been solved, all of my savings were depleted. 

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I was in a mess and I needed money for my personal use. I had to take care of my daughter too, so I began wondering how I would erase the current quagmire. The first thought was borrowing from friends, but I’ve seen how money can break friendships, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go that route. 

I, personally, have friends who have never paid me back my money. Some of the debts even stretch back to three years ago. It went from “Nitakulipa on Thursday,” to calls getting unanswered. Eventually, ties were severed.

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Because I didn’t want to be the kind of friend who borrows money and struggles to pay, I opted for loan apps. I figured that this option would enable me to handle the little bills easily and that paying wouldn’t be a problem. What I didn’t know is that loan apps tend to suck you in and keep you in a debt cycle. They also trigger a borrowing addiction. 

Every time I repaid, I was offered a higher loan amount, and the temptation to not take another loan was difficult to resist. Then my buddy told me about other apps that were offering great loans too, and I found myself downloading them. At first, paying was easy, but within no time, I found myself borrowing from one app to pay the other. As time passed, I realized none of the loans was even benefitting me. It was simply a case of taking from Peter to pay Paul. 

Worse still, the interest rates were extremely okay. How in the world is it okay to be asked to pay 17k from a 10k loan? Most of the apps simply exist to extort desperate Kenyans and it’s quite a shame that no one has thought of fixing this.

As expected, there came a time when I found myself unable to repay a few of the loans from the apps. I wasn’t planning to default. In fact, I worked hard to ensure that even though I had skipped past the due dates, it wouldn’t take me more than a week to cover all the debts.

What happened during that one week made me swear off loan apps. I would get about 50 calls and messages a day, all from different agents harassing me and ordering me to pay immediately. I would explain that I had just spoken to someone else minutes ago, but they wouldn’t listen. The constant calls kept coming and many of the agents would resort to threats. 

Things became even worse when they began calling my referees. I had been foolish enough to put my parents as referees because I initially believed I could never default. The loan companies thus began doing what is known as debt shaming, stressing my parents for no good reason. I hear that some of them even call your workplace if you were naive enough to state where you work while registering on the app. 

Before this defaulting period, I hadn’t had peace either. The agents would start calling me about three days before the loan was due, and their tone was always defined by rude lingo and threats. At some point, I even sat down and prayed, wondering why God had allowed me to be subjected to such unnecessary drama. I had never pictured myself as the kind of person who would one day be arguing with people over loans. Still, I held my head high. 

After getting tired of the back-and-forth, I just began ignoring them. This is a tactic I learned after bumping into a Facebook group known as Loan App Victims Kenya. Additionally, I had to install apps that allow you to block all numbers that aren’t in your contact list. I also learned that you need to deny them access to your contact list so that they won’t text your ex of five years ago or a random cousin who is likely to spread gossip everywhere.

Thankfully, my financial situation improved a bit, and I managed to clear all my existing debts. From that time, I vowed to never take a loan from mobile lenders again. Avoid it too, for the benefit of your mental health. 

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