Auto loans are very similar to home mortgages in a number of ways – particularly when it comes to what happens if you don’t pay your bill on time. If you fall significantly behind on your mortgage, eventually the bank will foreclose on your home. The same is true in the auto industry, only the technique is referred to as repossession. Repossession in the United States, in particular, is, unfortunately, common among low-income buyers. In 2014, for example, car repos soared an incredible 70%.

Foreclosing on a home is typically a lot easier than repossessing a car, however, for one very simple reason: Your home doesn’t move. When a collection agency comes to repossess your car, it could be sitting in your driveway… or it could be literally anywhere. This is one of the many reasons why certain auto detailers are turning toward military spying technology to keep an eye on your (and your vehicle’s) every move.


Auto Detailers and Spying: The Situation

According to an investigation that was recently conducted by WFAA in Dallas, Texas, many low-income car buyers throughout the area are waking up to find that their cars have disappeared. But it isn’t just the fact that cars are being repossessed that has people up in arms – it’s the “invasive, dehumanizing technology” that has people sounding alarm bells.

Many Dallas-area car dealerships are using GPS tracking devices hidden inside vehicles at the time of purchase to keep a constant eye on its location. The trackers themselves are not only based on military technology, but they’re incredibly small – they’re often the size of a pager. The issue is that these devices are undisclosed at purchase and are hidden incredibly well. Many are buried BEHIND the car’s dashboard in a location where the average user would never be able to find it on their own, even if they went looking for it.

When someone is late on their payments and the repossession process begins, anyone with access to the technology can pull up its current location on the Internet – accurate down to a few meters – from any web browser

However, this problem runs a fair bit deeper than just being a question of privacy. Many buyers across Dallas have said that they were NOT late on their payments when their vehicles were repossessed. One woman even had her car repossessed while she was on a business trip in Arizona, leaving her in excess of a thousand miles away from home without a way to get back.

WFAA investigators took a look at a few of the contracts that people signed and noted that while it said that the dealer can “take possession of the car” at any time, GPS tracking was not mentioned. According to Texas law, the seller of a car MUST notify the buyer about any tracking devices that have been installed in writing.

Also concerning is the sheer volume of information that these tracking devices can collect. They allow someone to not only see where your car is, but where it’s been. Someone can see how long your car has been at a particular location, or how many times you’ve visited in the past. The study concluded by estimating that roughly 70% of vehicles that were purchased with subprime loans came equipped with these GPS trackers already installed.

In order to avoid these and other types of invasive practices, it is recommended that you keep a few key things in mind. Experts recommend that you do NOT make a large down payment to an auto dealer, as that only gives them an incentive to repossess the car as quickly as possible so that they can sell it to someone else.

Also, remember that oral agreements mean nothing from a legal perspective. If a dealer tells you that no GPS tracking devices are installed, there are literally no consequences if they’re lying as it is very hard to prove in the first place. Instead, read all of your paperwork and pay very close attention to any contracts that you’re asked to sign.