Planet Money

Traditionally, pawn shops have been the last stop for people desperate for cash. But now there's a small but growing group of pawn shops for the wealthy.

Actor and model Regi Huc needed $75,000 in a hurry last year. He was making his first feature film, and needed to do re-shoots before the deadline to enter this year's film festivals.

On paper his finances look good. He owns some buildings in Philadelphia and has a stake in a family business, but he needed that money within a week. He didn't have the cash in his bank account. He didn't have time to apply for a loan.

Payday lenders made about $49 billion in high-interest loans last year. More than a third of those loans were made online. I wondered what happens when you apply for such a loan, so I decided to find out.

In the course of reporting a story earlier this year, I logged on to a site called eTaxLoan.com and filled out an application.

I asked for $500 and, to be safe, I made up an address, a name (Mary) and a Social Security number. The site asked for more sensitive stuff — a bank account number and a routing number — and I made that up, too.