John Oliver’s weekly HBO show has received a lot of press for its deft, in-depth reporting on issues that are not always in the public eye. On the show’s June 5 episode, Oliver covered the debt buying industry. When a creditor cannot collect a debt, it “charges off” the debt, receiving a tax break in the process. Creditors bundle their charged-off accounts and sell them to debt buyers, often for a fraction of what is owed. Some bundled debts may have been discharged in bankruptcy, some may be past the statute of limitations. Debt buyers will try to collect on those debts. As the Last Week Tonight segment shows, not every collector follows the law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act broadly prohibits the conduct displayed in the segment. Debt collectors cannot threaten you, nor can they swear at you or insult you.
If a debt collector harasses you, then you have recourse under the law. Contacting a consumer defense attorney should be your first step.