Legal ?- Need prompt answer...

First question, before I begin a long story: What is a time barred debt? Now on to the story.

Ok, here goes. Back in 1994-5, I had in gym in my hometown. The final electric bill was like $17 and some odd cents. So I just sorta forgot about it, and never heard much. in 2001-3, I seperated from my wife, lost my job, took all the debt because she couldn't handle money and was on disabilty, and then went through a somewhat expensive divorce. During this time, the electric company sent me bill for the gym. But I was rather preoccupied with everything gong on around me, and didn't pay it.

After I was back on my feet a little better, I was going to pay it, but couldn't find the bill. I called the electric company, and they said it was sent to collections.

Anyways, the past couple months I started getting a phone call every once in awhile, and when I googled the number it came out for JBC legal group. I contacted them and it was for the electric bill.

When I spoke to the the electric compnay they told me that their collections company was in Reading, PA IIRC. Not sure on the city, as it was a few months ago.But the name was not JBC legal group. But no other collection company has sent me a collections letter for it. And I reliaze that agencies sometimes buy debts for collection purposes.

However when I googled the group I found out they are a very shady group. I don't really want to send money to a group that doesn't even legitmately own the debt.

But today they left a message saying that they are making a reccomadation and wanted to know if a voluntary restituion would be made as they have secured the services of a lawyer in my county. SO what are my options here? I think I should find the actual company and pay it, and then deal with these scam artists, but what is my time frame here? Days, hours, weeks? And who would hire a lawyer for $17??

Here are some links:
JBC vs. WV

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/jbc_legal.html

from ripoff report.com:
JBC Legal Group well-known nationwide scam to collect false uncollectable debts

http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/ripoff110030.htm

Another story about them trying to collect debts for the lon defunct Ames department stores.

http://www.wpri.com/Global/story.asp?S=1894912&nav=F2DSNPNt

The answer depends on which state you are in. I would be surprised, however, if your state had a statute of limitations that extended that many years for an electric bill. I believe most states have a SOL of 6 years for debts based on a writing (such as your bill). Of course, the answer could be different in your state. All the same, the debt could and probably would remain on your credit report, regardless of whether it is now legally uncollectable.

It's only $17. Pay it and hope that they are not a scam. Ask them for proof of satisfying the debt, and send that to the credit reporting agencies with the explanation as to why it went to collections in the first place. If they are a scam artist, you're out a whopping $17. If not, it's all taken care of.