Despite the rather small amount, you need the assistance of an attorney who knows how to defend these sort of cases. You should have demanded verification of the debt and taken other steps and now it may be too late. However, a lawyer might be able to help you. There are a number of excellent collection defense attorneys in and near Will County. Hopefully you will hire one soon. A collection agency can be challenged.
You have discovery rights so use them. Request a copy of the contract they are attempting to enforce.
This answer does not create an attorney client relationship between you and I. I am not your attorney unless we both sign a written contract that describes our relationship and terms of the representation. Any information provided to you here is not a substitute for the advice you need to pursue any legal matter. I advise you to retain the services of a local attorney before taking any legal action in this matter.
If you've not done so already, review Illinois Supreme Court Rules 281-289 (http://www.state.il.us/court/supremecourt/rules/Art_II/ArtII.htm#281). Here is the link to the court’s small claims page: http://willcountycircuitcourt.com/assist/small/small.htm.
Click on the following for information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: http://www.illinoislegalaid.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.dsp_content&contentID=296.
Has this collection agency complied with the licensing requirements of the Illinois Collection Agency Act? If not, the case should be dismissed, among other things. Can ownership of the alleged debt be proven? The plaintiff shoulders the burden of proving its case.
Also, if the plaintiff prevails, it is only entitled to attorney’s fees if a contract between the parties allows for fee-shifting (or there is a law that provides for same).
Robert T. Kuehl
Kuehl Law, P.C.