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John Oliver forgives almost $15 million in medical debt for thousands of people

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On Sunday night's episode of "Last Week Tonight," host John Oliver tackled the debt industry and the process of companies buying debt. (YouTube/LastWeekTonight)

NEW YORK (WKRC) - On Sunday night's episode of "Last Week Tonight," host John Oliver tackled the debt industry and the process of companies buying debt.

Oliver took a scathing look at the behavior of debt collectors and purchasers in a process that has very little regulatory oversight.

"American households collectively owe over $12 trillion in debt, and right now $436 billion of that debt is seriously delinquent, meaning it's 90 or more days past due," Oliver said.

"Let's say you have a thousand dollar credit card debt that you can't pay. At a certain point, your bank might write off the $4,000 on its taxes and then, to make just a little extra money, sell it off to a debt buyer for a tiny fraction of the cost. Maybe $50. And then that debt buyer can come after you for the full original amount. And if it can't collect, potentially it can then resell that debt for a fraction of what it paid to someone else who can still come after you for the original amount, or sell it for a fraction of what it paid and so on and so on and so on. Now, you might think the information changing hands would include a lot of verifiable information, but you would be wrong," Oliver explained.

To prove his point, Oliver said he the show spent $50 to create their own debt-collecting agency in Mississippi, naming it Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP after the bottom-feeding fish.

"Any idiot can get into it, and I can prove that to you, because I'm an idiot and I started a debt buying company and it was disturbingly easy," he said.

After setting up the operation, Oliver said CARP was offered a portfolio of almost $15 million in medical debt. The price they paid? Just $60,000. On top of that, the file would have the personal information like names, addresses and Social Security information for almost 9,000 people.

To conclude the segment, in an unprecedented move, John Oliver announced that he and the show would relieve $14,922,261.76 of medical debt owed by those nearly 9,000 people.

He called the giveaway the "largest one-time giveaway in television history," saying his move was worth double the value of Oprah Winfrey's famous car giveaway.

*Warning: Video contains strong language.*



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