Watch: John Oliver forgives $15 million in medical debt

It was the biggest giveaway in TV history

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In last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took aim at the debt collection industry in America, slamming it for careless and sometimes unethical practices. He revealed his show (which has previously illuminated unethical financial practices by payday lenders and television preachers) started its own debt collection agency, bought the debt of nearly 9,000 Americans, only to forgive their $15 million in medical dues—making it the largest giveaway in TV history.

Debt repayment mistakes you’re probably making »

Oliver points out that when debt-buyers purchase dues, they often don’t receive any additional information about the debt. This lack of information sometimes results in mix-ups, where people who may have paid off their debts still owe the debt in the eyes of the collector.

He also mentioned how even though debt collectors can act ethically and legally, some use sleazy tactics like harassing debtors at home with threats and intimidation.

Watch: John Oliver takes down credit report errors »

To highlight how easy it is for Americans to get into the practice of collecting debt, he and his show paid $50 to set up a debt collection agency online, which they named Central Asset Recovery Professionals—also known as CARP, which Oliver gleefully pointed out, is a bottom-feeding fish.

Soon after, CARP was offered the $15 million in medical debt. But instead of hiring an army of employees to collect it, Oliver chose to forgive the debt. The giveaway beat Oprah’s record giveaway of $8 million dollars worth of vehicles to her audience.

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While those living in Canada don’t have to worry as much about medical debt (Hey John, want to come to Canada?), Canadians households still owe a total of $1.92 trillion dollars. If you count yourself among them, check out our resources on how to identify the bad debt from the good, and how to consolidate debt so it’s easier to handle.

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