Last month a reader wondered how her family’s credit history affected her own. This month Daniel has a slightly different problem: his parents did ruin his credit, though indirectly. He writes:

When I was 19/20 years old, my credit was ruined. I had a decent job and got a few credit cards. I went to college, which my parents said they would pay for and support me during, so I quit my job. When money was tight for them, they said I should use my credit, and they would pay it off. They failed to do that and ruined my credit to the tune of about $5,000.

I am now 25 and I’m starting to get back on my financial feet. I have often heard that bad credit only stays on your credit reports for 7 years. Is this true? Are these charges going to disappear, or is that just an urban legend? What is my best plan of action? Should I pay these bills off? Or should I just wait a few more years for them to disappear? From what point are the 7 years counted?

I’ve already obtained my free credit reports and have begun correcting issues and asking the credit agencies to verify every negative charge, just to see if any of it comes back clean. My score right now is 500 = “Very Poor.” I have not made any payments and I have not ever spoken with any of the creditors. All of the bad accounts are closed by the creditors and all of my student loans are in good standing/paid to current. I know I owe this money, and I don’t want a free ride, I just want to know what my best options are.

I’ve written about similar subjects before:

But I’ve never encountered anyone with these sorts of specific questions. Do any of you have experience with similar situations? How did you handle things? What worked? What didn’t? What sort of advice can you offer Daniel?

Note: This question was originally posted to AskMetafilter.