Action 9 investigates risky loans from popular lender

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ORLANDO, Fla. - After making loan payments for three years, a Titusville woman says she owes more on her loan than when she started payments.

Action 9 investigated why loans from a popular lender can be risky.

Teneis Mathis bought the Nissan almost new more than three years ago.

She's made monthly car payments ever since but says she hasn't even put a dent in the outstanding  balance.

"There are nights I cry. I've been sick, like stressed out,” Mathis said.

Her financing came from Santander Consumer USA, a major subprime lender.

Her loan was for $24,170, but after 40 payments the company said her balance was more than that.

"You owe today $24,600?” WFTV's Todd Ulrich asked. “How is that possible?” 

“Don't know. Really don't know,” Mathis replied.

Mathis said she was eventually able to get an account audit, which showed that most months every dollar she paid went to interest and fees.

“It's not fair," she said. "I get so upset about this."

A year after Action 9 helped Les Hill get his title from Santander, he claims the lender still owes him payments it took after his loan was paid off.

“I have asked for payment history and received no response,” Hill said.

Fifteen customers have contacted Action 9 about the company since 2015.

Most complaints involved soaring balances and hidden fees.

This year, two states claimed Santander violated consumers-protection laws, and it settled both without admitting guilt.

A consumer group, The Committee for Better Banks, recently told congressional leaders that Santander's loans are risky.

"They add payments onto the back end of the loan, they add time to the loan, they add interest to the loan, and they add fees,” said Committee for Better Banks spokeswoman Teresa Casertano .

Santander told Ulrich that it is under new management.

The company has strengthened best consumer practices and fully disclosed loan terms, Santander said.

The company said it is reviewing Mathis’ account, but so far, she hasn't gotten the answers she is looking for.

“They can't explain where my money is going,” Mathis said.

Santander contracts also contain a binding arbitration agreement, which makes it far more difficult to challenge a loan in court.

Consumer experts say that it is best to try to refinance that loan, if possible, and that a credit union can be a good option.

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