Lawyers that want to collect a debt want your money. To get it from you they need information on where it is: a bank account, a job, a list of assets, etc. In New Jersey, they do this by sending you a form questionnaire called an "information subpoena."
Although it comes from their office, it is still a court document and should be treated as such. Once you have received it, you are required to fill it out, completely, sign it, and return it to the law firm within 14 days.
What Happens If You Don't Fill It Out?
If you do not do this, you can be held in contempt of court. Continuing to ignore it can (and usually does) result in a warrant for your arrest being issued by a judge! A sheriff or other court officer may come to your home to pick you up, or you could be arrested upon being pulled over for a traffic violation. You can get out of trouble by complying and filling out the form, but who wants the embarassment of being arrested?
What Happens If You Do?
The consequences of your responding to the subpoena depend on your situation. If you are judgment proof due to being unemployed or disabled, having no real assets (including your home), or some other reason, then it is unlikely anything will happen because you have given the creditor nothing to work with.
On the other hand, if you do have a job, a car, a bank account, or a home, a levy is most likely headed your way, and you are going to want to take action to prevent it. Do something right away; don't wait until the creditor does something nasty like a wage execution or a bank levy.
As you can see, this is not something you should ignore. Not only can it get you arrested, but it is also a clear sign that you have to address this collection suit before it causes more problems for you.
So what Do I Do?
If this is the only debt that is out of hand, then you should try reaching a deal with the creditor. Getting the debt under control will certainly make your life much easier and eliminate the stress.
If you want more information on how to deal with your creditors, download my free book, The Biggest Secrets Your Creditors Don't Want You to Know. This explains the collection system and your rights within it.
As a former creditor's attorney I have helped many people deal with situations like this by negotiating on their behalf.
If you live in southern New Jersey and would like to retain me to negotiate with this creditor, feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment in my Woodbury office.
But if this debt is not the only one you have, and you are wondering whether you need a solution to a bigger problem, then download my free book, Am I In Too Deep? A Guide to Knowing When You Need to File Bankruptcy in New Jersey to find out if bankruptcy might be the right solution. You could also just give me a call and come in to discuss it further!