A speedy loan is a quick way to get cash, but could cause a lot of trouble when you can't pay up. A case in Springfield is drawing national attention to consumer protection laws. Roberta Pleasant says she was stalked and harassed by speedy loan lenders.
Pleasant says she would pay her bill if she could. She's disabled and lives on Social Security. Her husband was sick. She needed cash fast.
"We had to get money to drive to St. Louis for his ALS treatment," said Pleasant.
She got a $500 loan from Noble Finance in Springfield with an interest rate of more than 150 percent. Months later, she got behind on her payment. She paid off her principal but owed about the same amount in interest. That's when the unpleasant calls started.
"It got progressively worse," said Pleasant.
Lenders called her and her family several times a day.
"They were saying, 'You need to pay up; you need to pay up,'" Pleasant said.
Pleasant says workers from Noble Finance then went to her home.
"They said, 'We can't leave until we get some kind of money.' They wanted to call the police on me. I said I'm going to call the police on them. They kept calling me and harassing me and stalking me, calling my son, calling my daughter-in-law. It was too much," said Pleasant.
"She just really wanted some relief for that level of harassment," said Summer Masterson-Goethals, attorney with Legal Services of Southern Missouri.
Attorneys with Legal Services of Southern Missouri asked a judge for an Adult Abuse Ex Parte, an order of protection against a Noble Finance employee.
"They were stalking these individuals," Masterson-Goethals, said.
A reporter went to Noble Finance hoping to get answers. The worker mentioned in court documents said questions could only be answered by a supervisor in another state.
"I think consumers in Missouri are really left in limbo," Masterson-Goethals said.
In the Show-Me-State, there is about one speedy loan company office for every 4,000 residents. Experts say these quick cash companies flock to Missouri because there is little consumer protection. They can charge skyrocketing interest rates and it's legal.
For many years, some lawmakers have tried to get the Legislature to cap interest rates at 36 percent, but the bills have not passed.
"That level of stress makes it harder for people to pay that bill, whereas, if they would just sue them in court, that's the legal remedy and that's what creditors are supposed to do in these situations," Masterson-Goethals said.
"I'm afraid there's a lot of these places in town that are taking advantage of the public. I hope the state of Missouri could pass some kind of law to protect us," Masterson-Goethals said.
Pleasant's order of protection was later dismissed after a hearing. The judge decided it could be solved in civil court.
A supervisor of Noble Finance has never returned a reporter's calls asking for a comment on Pleasant's case or on the tactics that Noble uses to try to collect a debt.
A check of Casenet, Missouri's online database of court records, show Noble Finance offices around the state have sued clients about 5,000 times in the past 20 years to try to collect debts. That includes about 57 lawsuits filed this year alone in Greene County. The company has not yet sued Pleasant.