What are the rules for original credit passed on to credit agencies?

What I mean by the rules is: I was told that after 7 years, negative items fall of of your credit. For the majorities of my accounts, they are falling of by Jan of 09. What I am experiencing is credit agencies sending me letters stating that I owe the debt and that I should return their call, make a deal and set up a payment plan. I am confused. Am I obligated to paying these people back? They are not even the original creditor! Help I hope that some understands what I am asking. The key thing is that seven years is rolling around, I differently want to get my credit in better shape, I have been working diligently to do so, but I am wondering should I address these agencies that are trying to contact me, or just leave it alone. I think if I answer them, this will negatively effect my credit report and score even more, reopening the debt and it will stay on the report for another 7 years. Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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