It's not really fair to refer to payday lenders as loan sharks. After all, loan sharks don't have their own lobbyists. Nor do loan sharks advertise with big signs on city streets, rural strip malls and the Internet.

Yet, in the 35 states where they still operate legally, "payday lenders" — like their brethren in pawn shops and the "instant tax refund" businesses — often charge percentage rates that on an annualized basis run high enough to make real sharks drool.

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