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John Oliver piece on aggressive debt buyers uses Clark Howard footage, 'Walking Dead' jokes

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On John Oliver's latest missive on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight" Sunday night, he referenced not only "The Walking Dead" - Atlanta's most popular TV production - but also used a segment of a story by Atlanta consumer expert Clark Howard from Howard's website. (It's impossible not to recognize the man's voice!)

Oliver's topic was about companies that buy old debt and try to convince folks to pay up, even if the statute of limitations has long passed. These companies buy the debt at pennies on the dollar and often use aggressive (and sometimes illegal) ways to convince consumers to give them cash. One man is shown on the show gleefully describing his tactic of calling the person's boss and shaming them. Debt collectors have threatened people with death and in one case, killing their dog and eating it.

The comedian played multiple clips of news reporters describing the debt as if they're zombies, coming back to life long after consumers presumed they were dead and buried. This led, of course, to the inevitable "Walking Dead" jokes:

"Zombies are fun," Oliver said. "But the comparison is actually quite apt because just like on 'The Walking Dead,' zombie debt comes back from the grave, is incredibly hard to deal with and seems to disproportionately impacts minorities." (He showed a shot of the various minorities killed on the show and the audience groaned knowingly.)

Later, he noted that one strategy debt buyers use s flooding the court system with lawsuits. As Howard notes in a clip: "These companies bank on consumers ignoring the lawsuit, which means they are automatically responsible for the debt."

Here's the original report in full:

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Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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