NORTH PORT, Fla. - Debt collectors may be coming after your money for a company that no longer exists.
A North Port couple is fighting to save their credit rating from a few hundred dollars in late fees from the former Hollywood Video rental chain. But the couple says they never had any late fees, and they've discovered they're not the only ones targeted by a collection agency.
Pat Ramsey says it was a surprise to get a letter from Massachusetts-based Credit Collection Services.
"They were demanding money, $274.93, saying it was due because we had failed to return a video to Hollywood video," Ramsey said. "I don't want them to ruin my credit, and if I owed something, I'd already have it paid."
Ramsey says family never had late fees; they even checked with Hollywood Video before it closed to find a credit on their account.
"My son, my husband and I, all three, got a little leery of it."
The Ramseys went online and soon found dozens of others in a similar situation.
"I tell my clients look for what I call the smell test," attorney Carmen Dellutri told Call For Action about debt collections. "It seems as the economy gets worse there are a lot more debt collectors getting into the game."
WINK News was on the phone with Ramsey as she heard from the collection agency for the first time. She discovered they're being charged for movies and video games they say they never rented. The only options the operator offered: pay the debt, or prove they returned the items.
But the Federal Trade Commission says its up to the company to prove the debt - not you. They say to send a certified letter to the collection agency, asking to detail the debt or stop contacting you.
"We've worked all of our lives to keep our credit good, and this happens. We're a little disappointed in that," Ramsey said.
The Better Business Bureau lists Credit Collection Services with a grade of "C," saying it doesn't have much information on the company, but also has not received any recent complaints.
WINK News attempted to contact Hollywood Video at the only e-mail address still available, but did not receive a response.
For information on what to do about debt collections, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website.