In what he called the biggest giveaway in television history, HBO’s John Oliver has paid off $15 million in overdue medical debt.
Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight, set out to expose the shady practices of debt collectors, and in the end protected 9,000 people from annoying, harassing, and even illegal collection agency calls and letters.
Oliver and his team paid just $50 to register themselves as a debt collection company — Central Asset Recovery Professionals (CARP) — and then started buying debt for as little as four-tenths of a penny for every dollar.
Companies are willing to sell old, uncollected debts for next to nothing, but these prices are so low because the debt has actually expired, and the people who owed it are no longer required by law to pay it.
Oliver wanted to show how easy it is for unscrupulous debt collectors to abuse the system. They often buy expired debt because if they convince a debtor to make a payment, it can put all his debt back on the table.
CARP then transferred the debt it purchased to RIP Medical Debt — a group that specializes in retiring medical bills without tax issues for the debtors.
Oliver’s staff believes the biggest giveaway prior to the June 5 show was when Oprah Winfrey gave every person in her studio audience a new car.
Hitting a giant red button, Oliver signaled the transfer of the debt to RIP at the end of his show and declared he had topped Oprah’s record giveaway.
“I am the new queen of daytime talk [shows],” Oliver declared as dollar bills rained down on the stage.
(WATCH the video below, or the full 20-min episode here) — Photo: HBO
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