We were contacted by telephone today by the collection agency for the legal successor of now-defunct Hollywood video. This collection agency (Universal Fidelity), I'm told, is in or near bankruptcy itself. They are attempting to collect questionable debts from overdue video rentals from the summer of 2009. Read on, if you want all the details, but the word from one of the key employees there said the Hollywood Video court settlement prevents them or anyone from making negative credit reports if the supposed debtors they are calling refuse to pay.
In their outbound collections call, I was told by Victoria they sent my wife a letter last Dec. 2011, outlining the collection demand, and explaining what video rentals at a Hollywood Video store that were in question. We do not recall receiving such a letter. I asked for another copy. She agreed to send one out.
Meanwhile, web searches for this agency, and it's connection with Hollywood Video turn up numerous rip off reports and complaints.
I phoned a past manager of Universal Fidelity that I learned about on LinkedIn and got some additional info. Then I phoned the Universal main office and tried to get through to the owner, Mr. Dan Simon (or something close to that), and learned his mailbox is full and was not accepting messages. Then I went through the entire company directory on their automated extension finder and found some odd "extensions," including Wells Fargo Bank, Sprint, and names of people in remote offices. I keyed through to one and got a recording in Spanish, and pressed 0 for the operator.
I was connected to a lady who was very polite, and who identified herself as "Cleo." She explained there had been a gag order on the collections/receivables for Hollywood for several years while the bankruptcy case was in court. She said they were hired by the legal successor to Hollywood, called First Term Lenders Liquidation Trust, in Clackamas, OR. She was aware there is all kinds of bad press out there and claims their collection efforts were scams. She was very polite and explained a lot about the background on the case, and how the court had limited the collection efforts once the case was settled late last year. Apparently, no one was permitted to collect on old alleged receivables until Dec. 2011.
The real nugget in this conversation was that Universal's debt collection efforts were supposedly cleared with the attorney generals of all the states in which Hollywood Video operated, and that they could try and recover the funds, but that they were barred from doing anything further in terms of threatening to or sending in negative credit reports related to non-payers. Basically your choice is to pay or send them a written decline letter saying you did not owe this money.