On last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver gave away $14 million as part of an effort to increase awareness of debt, debt buyers, and zombie debt in America.
American households currently own over $12 trillion in debt, $436 billion of which is past due by 90 days or more. This staggering amount of debt has led to the creation of a multi-billion dollar industry in which just about anybody can purchase debt for pennies on the dollar and go after debtors for repayment. In fact, he showed just how easy it was to do by paying a mere $50 fee to create his own organization: Central Asset Recovery Professionals (CARP, for the bottom-feeding fish). For only $60,000, he was able to purchase $14,922,261.76 in medical debt from more than 9,000 people. Purchasing the debt gave CARP access to the names, Social Security numbers, and current addresses of each of these people, along with the amount each allegedly owed. Mr. Oliver described the entire process as “disturbingly easy.”
Even more disturbing is the fact that people can legally buy debt in more than half of U.S. states without a license. And in 17 states, a person doesn’t need a license to collect a debt, either. Sometimes, the debts purchased are no longer even legally collectable because the statute of limitations for those debts has already passed, but collectors often still attempt to collect them anyway. If they can get a debtor to begin making payments on an old debt, this can result in what is called a zombie debt – a “resurrected” debt thatshould be dead and buried.
Instead of using CARP to actually collect on the debts he and his team purchased, Mr. Oliver had them sent to RIP Medical Debt, an organization that specializes in forgiving medical debt without leaving the former debtor with any tax consequences. More than $14 million in debt forgiveness makes this the biggest giveaway in TV history.
Watch the full video here:
Struggling with medical debt? There is hope. Get in touch with a Chicago debt relief attorney at Atlas Consumer Law to discuss your options. We can be reached at (312) 313-1613.