NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- No one wants to get that call from a bill collector looking for money. It can be frightening and intimidating.
But now, CBS2's Alice Gainer introduces us to collectors who are calling to get you out of debt, helping unsuspecting recipients to be debt free.
You hear the phone in the background and you dont want to pick it up cause you know its a bill collector. Paola Gonzalez knows those calls well. She owes more than $30,000 in medical bills. It's a debt that she says he affected her entire family.
"We actually had to move out of our old house and come live here because they couldn't afford me being sick and also paying the house," Gonzalez said.
Then, Gonzalez said she received an amazing call.
"I was just like, 'somebody just called me and said they're going to pay one of my bills,'" Gonzalez said.
The call came from Jerry Ashton and Craig Antico, telling Gonzalez that a bill for nearly $1,000 was being paid.
"It sounded too good to be true," Gonzalez said.
Especially when you consider that these New Yorkers were once bill collectors, themselves.
"How can I be happy at a collection agency if I hate collecting?" Antico said. "I converted my collection agency into this."
"This" is RIP Medical Debt.
"What we are is a company that comes in and buys medical debt from hospitals and physicians with donated money and we abolish the debt," Antico said.
As bill collectors, they would purchase medical debt for pennies on the dollar, and then go after the people who owed the money. Now, they take patient debt and bring it to zero, Gainer reported.
"We separate the people who can't pay from the people who can pay," co-founder Ashton said.
"I didn't choose to be sick, but here I am trying to keep a job and when I do work it's just to pay off medical bills," Gonzalez said.
And to make matters worse, patients struggling with extreme debt often will not seek additional care, so they don't incur any more expenses.
"It does get me really upset. It stresses me out," Gonzalez said.
RIP Medical Debt says it has technology to identify the patients who need the most help, and hopes to erase what they owe.
"Two million people go bankrupt because of medical debt," Antico said. "We want to stop that long trail of harassment and stress."
"I appreciate it so much, so much. I'm so thankful for it," Gonzalez said.
RIP Medical Debt is raising money through crowd funding, and say its goal is a quarter of a million dollars, to abolish more than $17 million in medical debt, Gainer reported.
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