TV host John Oliver forgives $15 million in medical debt for strangers


HBO host John Oliver forgave nearly $15 million in medical debt during the grand finale of a scathing commentary on the debt buying industry– and the video is going viral. 

The made-for-TV moment was even bigger than Oprah’s unforgettable car giveaway.

Read more: 7 questions every debt collector should be able to answer

TV host rips debt buying industry

Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” spent 20 minutes dissecting the shady – sometimes illegal – way that debt buyers and collectors do business. He even included one of Clark’s reports about 10 minutes in.

To make his point, Oliver started a debt buying company of his own for just $50. 

As Oliver explained, his debt buying company purchased nearly $15 million in medical debt for less than $60,000, which entitled him to receive personal information for about 9,000 people.

If he wanted to, Oliver could have started trying to collect from those people, but he decided to do something different — forgive the debt.

It’s a relief to those 9,000 people, but Oliver said reform is needed to help others. In 2014, consumers filed more than 280,000 complaints with federal authorities about debt collectors. 

Warning: This video contains graphic language that is not suitable for younger audiences.

Know your rights 

If you legitimately owe a debt, you have specific rights under federal law. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when dealing with collectors:

  • Always record any calls from/to a collector. Both parties must consent to recording in California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
  • If your debt is outside the statute of limitations, you’re not required to pay up. However, you should honor your obligations when you’re financially able to do so. The statute of limitations is 3 to 4 years on many debts in most states. Yet a negative mark resulting from a delinquent account can hang out on your credit for up to 7 years.
  • You have the right to tell a collector never to contact you again. Use a drop dead letter and send it via certified mail. You can still, however, be sued against the debt even after sending this letter.
  • If you legitimately owe money and wish to make a deal to pay, never give a collector your checking account number over the phone. Collectors routinely take more money than they say they’ll take. Pay only by money order.
  • Never pay one cent until you have an agreement in writing stating your payment(s) will resolve the debt in full.

Read more: How to deal with debt collectors

  • Show Comments Hide Comments