John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, recently highlighted the debt buying business and unethical practices of the industry on his program.
“It is pretty clear by now [that]debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it,” Oliver said. “And I can prove that to you, because I’m an idiot, and we started a debt-buying company. And it was disturbingly easy.”
Aired Sunday, June 4, the segment detailed how Oliver registered a company named “Central Asset Recovery Professionals Inc.”—CARP, named after “the bottom-feeding fish,” according to Oliver—for $50. The company was soon offered to acquire a list of approximately $15 million of overdue medical debt from Texas for a cost of less than $60,000. For the amount, CARP purchased the names, current addresses and Social Security numbers of about 9,000 people who owed the debts.
“If I wanted to, I could legally have CARP take possession of that list and have employees start calling people, turning their lives upside down,” said Oliver.
Rather than attempt to collect money from those people, CARP forgave the old bills, making television history by staging “the single largest one-time giveaway in television history.”