Increasingly active rogue lenders are targeting the elderly and mentally ill, while one man was told to lie about his income so he could gain approval for a loan, the Salvation Army says.
In another case this year, two people were offered car loans at 30 per cent interest with the lender targeting those in desperate need of a car, who have no other way of getting finance.
The lender would then take "thousands-of-dollars in repayments, before repossessing the car and selling it to another desperate person", Army head of welfare services Major Pam Waugh said.
"In each of these cases, we have laid complaints or are working with the people involved to try and help them out of their situation," she said.
With debt being a major factor trapping people in poverty and rogue lenders continuing to flourish, welfare groups have joined Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi in calling for tighter lending laws.
Changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act in 2015 had not gone far enough, and it was time to "finish the job", Faafoi said.
He released a discussion paper this week suggesting the Government could set the maximum interest rate and fee limits lenders were allowed to charge and also hit them with heavier penalties when they behaved irresponsibly.
The Commerce Commission said it was also pursuing rogue lenders and had a number of active investigations.
"This has included our mobile trader project, resulting in $1.56 million in fines and ancillary orders requiring lenders to refund the cost of borrowing for affected loans," a commission spokeswoman said.
Between July 2014 and February 2017, it completed 245 investigations related to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, issued nine warning letters, received 18 court judgments and entered into four settlement agreements.
Yet despite these efforts, "many small rogue operators, are slipping through the cracks and continue to prey on the vulnerable and needy", Te Puea Memorial Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis said.
He revealed the marae was helping three homeless mums, who had 14 children between them and 30 debts totalling about $144,000.
Peter Cordtz from Government agency, the Commission for Financial Capability, said he heard of mobile trucks visiting small, isolated iwi communities in the Far North.
The trucks would be filled with basic food and clothing items and roll into town two days before benefits were due, knowing pantries were empty.
Some trucks had not even bothered to take off The Warehouse labels from the clothes they were re-selling at marked up prices.
"So the point at which people are borrowing to have milk, eggs and bread in their pantries suggests how predatory some of that activity is getting," Cordtz said.
He said part of the problem was "rampant consumerism" and a desire to take goods home now and pay later that affected all parts of Kiwi society, and part was the pressure on poorer families.
"The challenge is getting people beyond the urgency of now and thinking further downstream, but there is an old management adage, it is hard to think strategically when your shirt is on fire," he said.
As well as running budgeting sessions, his agency works to educate people about their rights and teach them how to read tricky credit contracts.
This can include "something as simple as a sticker on your door, saying 'Don't knock' means the sellers can't come to you", he said.
The Salvation Army, meanwhile, partners with support group Good Shepherd and BNZ Bank to offer low-interest and no-interest loans and also works with thousands of Kiwis every year on financial literacy.
"But often these are people who simply don't have enough money coming in to afford the basics of life let alone to break the cycle of their poverty," Waugh said.
"They are people who are hit hardest by the housing crisis and by the rising cost of living."