By Alexia Klapan
Debt haunts millions of Americans and some of it comes back to life long after it has been paid or when consumers never owed in the first place. That’s what’s known as “zombie debt.”
Debt and consumer rights are hot topics these days. That’s because the Trump Administration has threatened to dismantle the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at exactly the time when Colorado’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is up for renewal.
While debt is a serious issue, late-night host and comedian, John Oliver, managed to make it comprehensible and entertaining when he threatened to become a zombie himself in 2016.
If you need a debt primer, check out Oliver’s hilarious send-up on debt. (Brace yourself for some adult content.)
Click here to sign a petition to preserve strong laws governing debt collection in Colorado.
Oliver and his crew decided to become “debt buyers.” They paid just $60,000 for spreadsheets that listed $15 million in medical debts. Debt buyers pay cents on the dollar for old debts. The spreadsheets sometimes come with very little documentation. Those listed on the spreadsheets might have paid off the debt or never owed it in the first place. In some cases, people suffer medical emergencies that their health insurance doesn’t cover. Opportunistic debt buyers then try to make money from other people’s misfortunes.
Oliver named his Mississippi-based collection agency Central Asset Recovery Professionals, Inc. Yes, you got that acronym right. It spells out CARP.
CARP received a list of names, personal addresses and Social Security numbers for nearly 9,000 people allegedly tied to the debt.
“We bought it, which is absolutely terrifying because it means if I wanted to, I could legally have CARP take possession of the list and have employees start calling people, turning their lives upside down over medical debt,” Oliver said.
We don’t want to spoil Oliver’s ending, but let’s just say the comedian finds a great way to drive a stake into CARP’s zombie debt. Watch Oliver’s debt tutorial, and share it with your friends.