If you feel guilty because you never got to Hollywood Video before it folded to pay your fines for overdue DVDs, checking your credit report could change that guilt to anguish and anger. It certainly did for Dale Johnson, who discovered his $2 in late fees had been inflated by a collection agency to a $125 debt (including a $75 collection fee) that besmirched his credit report. Johnson doesn’t recall even getting a bill for the debt; he says the practice at the stores was just to ask customers if they wanted to pay their old fines when they rented new videos.
It turns out he’s far from alone: an Oklahoma company, National Credit Solutions, filed negative credit reports on 500,000 people after it bought Hollywood’s uncollected debts and those of another video chain that recently went bankrupt. Johnson found out about the black mark only when his homeowner’s insurance company took away his good-credit discount. He’s since gotten the debt removed.
Hollywood Video at one time had five stores in Ann Arbor; the last one, on West Stadium, closed last May. If you ever patronized any of them, Johnson recommends going online to ftc.gov/freereports to get a free credit report–and if you find you’ve been zinged, contacting the Michigan attorney general’s office to lodge an official complaint.