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Doppleganger
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:21 PM
Okay- using an alter here.
Anyway, the other day I got a letter in the mail from my high school (private school) saying that my parents were delinquent on the bill while I was there. It went on to say that if I paid half the amount owed (which would be about 6K) they would send me my diploma and high school transcripts.
First off, it's been over 16 years now since I graduated high school and this is the first I've ever heard of this (and it hasn't been because I wasn't reachable, up until 5 years ago- I'd had the same address I had in high school).
Secondly, I was obviously a minor
Thirdly, I didn't go to graduation and did get my actual diploma but I did graduate and went on to college. I have my college transcripts so I'm not sure why I would need high school transcripts.
Fourthly, I can't afford to pay them even a hundred bucks let alone 6000 even if I wanted to.

I'm inclined to just ignore the letter, but can they really hold me (who was a minor and it was over 16 years ago) responsible for the bill ? Or is it just typical Catholic school money fishing?

Truly I would pay it if I had the money but I don't and my parents don't.

sigh....

Coreene
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:27 PM
Tell them to go take a flying screw at the moon. Even if it was true - and I smell scam - the time that your parents (not you, you were a minor and their contract was with your parents) could be legally pursued for this ran out long ago.

mswillie
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:30 PM
Throw it away. Don't even acknowledge it.

carolprudm
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:30 PM
I'm not a lawyer, do not play one on tv and did not slee at a Holiday Inn last night so take this for what you are paying for it.

The contract was with your parents, a 16 year old can not be held responsible for a contract....the reason you do not accept a 16 YO's signature on a bill of sale for example. Your parents can not make you liable for their debts without your consent.

CosMonster
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:38 PM
Yeah, you don't need the transcripts, they didn't have a contract with you anyway, and even if they did it's been too long for them to come after you IIRC. I'd just ignore it personally.

Keep an eye on your credit reports and dispute it if it shows up on them. I don't see how they can hold you responsible for a contract your parents entered into, even though you were the one going to the school. If it were college, maybe, but you were in high school and a minor.

JanM
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:47 PM
Don't pay them a penny! THe financial shows have been warning people about this bad debt collection scam for a while. If you pay them, even if the loan is past collection time, then you could be acknowledging that you owe the money (depending on the legalities where you live). If they keep contacting you then consult a lawyer ASAP. Apparently, (according to the financial people) many companies have been buying back collections, contacting people, and trying to get payments. And I second the checking your credit reports (you can check them annually for free at www.annualcreditreport.com (http://www.annualcreditreport.com)) and disputing charges that you are not responsible for. The company is hoping you'll get scared, start making payments, and they get money from you.

enjoytheride
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:47 PM
My guess is scam. It has been way too long and you did graduate.

I would double check and make sure your parents paid their bill (if not they would have gotten a notice as well) and then contact the school so they can alert other graduates about the scam.

Alagirl
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:50 PM
Isn't there this little thingey that if you do make payments you assume legal responsibility for the dept?

I would however talk to your parents about it.

Either they did indeed not pay them, or they did and this is really not kosher.
But it is something I'd talk over with them.


But yeah, it smells like really old fish...16 year old fish to be precise...

littleum
Mar. 18, 2012, 02:51 PM
I'd just file it away and ignore them, while keeping an eye on my credit report. If you can, I'd ask your parents about it just so you can get the story.

It is *probably* fishing (not phishing) Some agencies buy debt for pennies on the dollar and will try to resurrect it to get something or anything out of it. The agency might have bought up the school's debt and is now trying to collect on everything possible, regardless of validity. They basically hope it spooks you into at least paying something to make them go away.

Guilherme
Mar. 18, 2012, 03:01 PM
First, call the school and ask them if they are for real. Note that if this is a scam you might be talking to the scammer. Do a web search to verify the schools current address and phone number, if any.

If they say "no" then I'd call your local law enforcement agency and give a copy to your local post office for transmittal to the Mail Fraud investigators.

If they are, I'd tell them no. I can't see any liablity in any state that I'm aware of on your part (you were a minor; the contract was between the school and your parents) and the Statute of Limitations has probably long since run.

G.

SMF11
Mar. 18, 2012, 04:01 PM
My husband works for a private school, on the financial side. There is no way a school would wait six years and no way they would pursue the student. If your parents were delinquent, they would have withheld the transcript and diploma and not allowed you to graduate. (Or, if they allowed you to graduate, they would have written off the debt).

Either way, you are clear. I agree I do not think it is the school sending you the letter, I think it is some kind of scam.

SimpsoMatt
Mar. 18, 2012, 04:06 PM
I think Guilherme's right. It's probably a scam, and if it is, the school and the authorities should be notified.

Claddagh
Mar. 19, 2012, 03:21 PM
I saw something on the news just this morning about this kind of thing (contacting people about old debts). What the legal expert said was that you should not make any payments (not even a penny) until it is sorted out legally (if in fact somebody does indeed owe the debt). In your case, the answer would be no - it cannot be collected from you since you never contracted with the school in the first place, plus you were a minor at the time so you couldn't have entered into any such contract anyway.

In any case, if someone were to make ANY payment on an old debt, that payment would actually start the debt anew and then the party trying to collect could legally come after them for the remainder of the debt (doesn't matter how old the original debt was).

Alagirl
Mar. 19, 2012, 03:28 PM
My husband works for a private school, on the financial side. There is no way a school would wait six years and no way they would pursue the student. If your parents were delinquent, they would have withheld the transcript and diploma and not allowed you to graduate. (Or, if they allowed you to graduate, they would have written off the debt).

Either way, you are clear. I agree I do not think it is the school sending you the letter, I think it is some kind of scam.


I think it's been 16 since she attended school, 6 since she moved...

Canaqua
Mar. 19, 2012, 03:28 PM
Sounds like a scam to me! If you have your diploma from high school and were not only admitted to college and graduated, there is no likely reason you'll ever need that high school transcript, even if this were real, which I seriously doubt. Are your parents around, can you ask them what the story is?

vxf111
Mar. 19, 2012, 03:31 PM
Sounds like a scam. Bet the scammers troll sites like classmates.com or whatever and just send the same letter to EVERYONE they find.

findeight
Mar. 19, 2012, 03:43 PM
16 YEARS since you were there:eek:.

I would not communicate in any way with whoever the contact listed on here is. That's NUTS, you were a kid and had no contract with them anyway.

One word of warning if this is not an outright scam...any contact by you might be assumed as acknowledging the debt which then could go on your record as of the date they received your response. DO NOT DO IT.

I made a terrible mistake trying to do the right thing with a bad CC debt from my divorce about 20 years ago (I was unaware hubby defaulted and credit reports were not very available back then). 5 years after the divorce I received a collection notice via regular mail from an agency. I went and called them offering to pay it off if they took it off the record-they called me a deadbeat etc. My contact with them started the whole 7 years to clear off my record all over again.

I didn't pay it, would not have made it go away any quicker then a default/charge off. Had I just shut up, they never would have been sure they found me. Fortunately I lived in Mass and consumer protection laws forbade them from tracing my address and harrassing me. Some states don't have those and you would be opening yourself up for a bad time with them.

So just shut up either way. DO NOT answer or even ask for more information.

fooler
Mar. 19, 2012, 03:44 PM
One possible explanation is the school contracted a collection agency to clear up old debts. The collection agency is generally paid a percentage of "ANY FUNDS" collected. As some collection agencies are not totally on the up and up, there are those who will cast a wide net expecting a certain number of folks will send in the money.

First speak with your parents to confirm if any funds were outstanding after your graduation.

If no, then contact the school and let them know what is being done in their name. They will need to deal with the agency. Also consider contacting the BBB and/or a lawyer and finally law enforcement.

If there were outstanding funds then follow your conscience. It is up to your parents and possibly you to determine if the money should be paid.

Finally I learned about 20 years ago that our very own IRS sends out these types of letters every year. People usually are reluctant to go to battle with the IRS/US Govt, so will send in the money. Without checking to see if it is really owed or not.
The amount listed as due in the letter is small enough that most can 'afford' to pay it and large enough to make an impact. In the 1990's the amount was around $638.xx, never zero cents.

magnolia73
Mar. 19, 2012, 04:15 PM
I had someone do that to me a few years ago- I was charged $1000 to replace carpet in a rental apartment (the carpet was damaged and stained when I moved in, noted on the lease). They kept my $250 pet deposit, plus a $200 security deposit.... they had plenty of $ to replace the probably 15 year old carpet.

Anyhow, they billed me once, I ignored it. Never went on my credit. 7 or 8 years later I started getting calls from a guy on their behalf who kept threatening me "to destroy my credit".... I laughed and eventually my home phone went the way of the cellphone.... it never even went on my credit... but the bureau threatened to:
ruin my credit
take my car
put a lien on my house

They like to threaten but can't actually do anything.

Event4Life
Mar. 19, 2012, 04:28 PM
Tell them to go take a flying screw at the moon. Even if it was true - and I smell scam - the time that your parents (not you, you were a minor and their contract was with your parents) could be legally pursued for this ran out long ago.

Not a lawyer here, but I would refer the school to your parents, who were paying the bill & ultimately made the decision as to where you would attend school and how much you would pay for it. Completely ridiculous and if my private school tried this on me I'd be bad mouthing them to everyone who cared/went there/sent their kids there/would listen.

INoMrEd
Mar. 19, 2012, 04:42 PM
It sounds like a scam to me. IMO no private high school is going to go after a student for non payment of tuition 16 years later.

JanM
Mar. 19, 2012, 05:04 PM
Where I used to live (three states ago) there was a local doctor who had a very profitable scam going (or what is more likely whoever did the billing was the scam artist). They watched the obituaries and the probate announcements in the paper, and then months later sent a bill for some ridiculous amount for medical services they never even performed. Some people actually paid these bills, but they were totally bogus.

danceronice
Mar. 19, 2012, 07:21 PM
Where I used to live (three states ago) there was a local doctor who had a very profitable scam going (or what is more likely whoever did the billing was the scam artist). They watched the obituaries and the probate announcements in the paper, and then months later sent a bill for some ridiculous amount for medical services they never even performed. Some people actually paid these bills, but they were totally bogus.

What's really bogus is that if this was really MONTHS after the death and the bill was sent to the Estate of [the deceased person], in most states you only have something like ninety days (I'm sure the exact amount of time varies by state) to bill the estate for outstanding debts, and after that point even you're legitimate, you're SOL. You can't come back months or years later and say "Dead Guy owed me $5000, pay up."

OP--I would call the school (NOT the contact in whatever the collection agency sent) and find out if they're aware of this at all. I cannot imagine that 1. they waited 16 years to go after outstanding tuition and 2. they'd go after the "student" and threaten to withhold diplomas and transcripts. The student was a minor at the time and can't be held responsible, and I guess once in a while they MIGHT need their diploma, but it's not exactly a heavy threat. I went to a public high school, but even at private universities if there were outstanding debts, even library fines, they let you know and threatened to withhold your diploma BEFORE you graduated.

Trakehner
Mar. 19, 2012, 09:51 PM
Just throw it away, sounds like a scam.

JanM
Mar. 19, 2012, 10:39 PM
Dancer-it was an area full of retirees, and many people didn't realize that the bill wasn't their problem, and check their own records to see their relative hadn't even been to that doctor (a radiologist as I recall). It was a ripoff in the worst way, and apparently had been going on for quite a while.