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I interviewed at this software company say X. I got the job offer letter.

They asked me to submit my original documents at the time of offer discussion. I submitted the final semester original result.

I found out that company is a staffing solution and hire candidates on third party payroll and also I got many negative feedback from many people. So, I decided not to join the company and I informed them of my decision.

Just today they send me this in mail:

You were suppose to join the Company but as you have backed out on last moment Co. has to suffer huge loss. In Your interview process, Coordination, Document Verification already Company has spent from the Funds and on top of that you are backing out. So you will have to pay Amt of 15,000 INR for the loss bear by the Company. Kindly acknowledge.

Now they are asking me to pay 15000 INR (= US$ 220) to get my documents back. What should I do?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user44108 Jul 4 '18 at 13:01
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    Is collecting them in person (or having someone collect them on your behalf) an option? – Laconic Droid Jul 4 '18 at 13:23
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    what documents did you gave them that you need back? – Jungkook Jul 4 '18 at 13:54
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    @Rucha - bharal makes a good point. Do you have evidence (ideally something in writing) beyond the telephone call? Police will find it difficult to act without firm evidence, and it looks like the company could still claim that you misunderstood. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Jul 5 '18 at 8:00
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    This goes for all Indians who face similar situations: Don't ever give your documents to any company. Such companies are always horrible places to work at. Offer to keep it at an escrow account with a bank if they really want to ensure your commitment. They should pay for the account and the conditions of document release should be in your favour; not theirs. – Nav Jul 6 '18 at 9:36
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Those documents still belong to you and this sounds like blackmail. Call the police and accuse the company of theft. Don't just name the company, name the people you were dealing with.

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    I add that I wouldn't warn the company, you'd give them time to retaliate. Just go to the police and let them work it out for you. They can't do this, the documents are still yours and $220 is a scam. – Cris Jul 4 '18 at 16:49
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    @Cris - Precisely so. If you warn them, they may destroy the documents out of fear or simple spite. – Richard Jul 4 '18 at 19:11
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    @Cris : the question might be whether police corruption in that area might make it not a good idea. Experience from a local would be welcome. – Val Jul 5 '18 at 5:29
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    This is correct. Call up the police. Similar thing happened with a friend. He filed a police case. The SP was a relative of this friend so sped up the case. Within two days he got his documents back & a call from CEO apologizing & asking forgiveness to take criminal case back – KharoBangdo Jul 5 '18 at 5:34
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    Theft is the crime of taking sonebodys property without permission. – user1666620 Jul 7 '18 at 9:04
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These are still your documents and the company can't just keep them. While you might have a case in going to the police, that's probably going to take a lot of time, effort, and money on both sides.

I'd start by sending them a message which lays out in no uncertain terms that:

  • These documents are yours, and they are not allowed to keep them
  • You will take it to the police if they don't send them back
  • Optionally: you'll cover postage for sending the documents

They're likely aware that they can't do this and just hoping to make some quick money. Alternatively, they might be super shady, in which case your documents are probably not coming back either way.

If they don't respond, then take it up with the police if it's really important, but it might be easier to obtain a fresh set of the original documents from the source. Universities will usually provide you with a new copy of your grades if you ask. Of course it depends on the document; if you sent them a passport or something, it's really important that you file a complaint with the police and get the old one invalidated.

Next time, don't send people original documents. That's just not necessary and only gives people the option to screw you over. Either take them with you when you visit in person or just send them a copy. They can't keep your original documents, so they'll end up with a copy in their files either way.

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    Respectfully, going to the police in this case seems the approach to take, since they may be doing this to several other recruits. A threat may get what the OP wants (the documents), but they won't likely stop doing the same to others... – CPHPython Jul 4 '18 at 8:43
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    @CPHPython The OP hasn't stated they want to change the companies behaviour or save the planet - just get their documents back. – bye Jul 4 '18 at 14:09
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    @DrEval reporting them is indeed acting in the common interest, but the point is rather that we have no clue of whom the OP is dealing with: a threat may backfire (and paying them will not guarantee the return of the documents). – CPHPython Jul 4 '18 at 16:45
  • While it couldn't hurt to go to the police, this maybe the fastest, least energy intensive approach if they surrender immediately. Otherwise then you should probably go to the police. – Mark Rogers Jul 4 '18 at 18:37
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    @JeffC, police in the U.S. at least have their hands tied: IANAL, but there's a very high probability they wouldn't be able to do anything if you already got your documents back. – Wildcard Jul 6 '18 at 3:00
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If they've said (ideally in writing) that they will not return the documents unless you pay them, that's extortion and should be reported to the police.

If they've not actually said this, they've not yet done anything criminal and if they were approached by the police could claim they had intended to return your documents, but hadn't got round to it.

You could reply to the mail with something like :

I acknowledge receipt of your mail of [date]. If you have a copy of an agreement where I accepted I would cover your costs, please enclose it when you return my documents.

You're acknowledging that you've seen the mail - not that you're agreeing with anything in it. If they're intending to keep your documents, your response is likely to trigger a reply that you could take to the police as definitive evidence.

They might send you something to sign saying you accept their costs when they return your documents. This will show that they don't already have this. Don't sign it, and tell them you don't accept liability for their costs. By this time you should already have your documents.

If they are able to produce something you've already signed to say you'll accept costs (read the small print in your agreement with them), you may be stuck with paying, though it would be worth consulting a lawyer if this happens. But at this point you should have your documents.

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    That message seems to that the OP is agreeing to pay the 15000 INR – user1666620 Jul 4 '18 at 11:48
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    @user1666620 - It could be read that way (which would result in them sending something to sign), but if they don't already have an agreement this message wouldn't commit Rucha to anything. I considered saying I didn't believe such an agreement existed, but if they're trying extortion they won't return the documents if they see that. There's possible ambiguity, but either way Rucha is agreeing to nothing and stands a better chance of getting the documents. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Jul 4 '18 at 12:06
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    "If they are able to produce something you've already signed to say you'll accept costs (read the small print in your agreement with them), you may be stuck with paying." -- note that just because the small print says something, does mean it's true. ask a lawyer in your local area, but in many countries certain kinds of contract terms are not enforceable, and this is exactly the kind of term that is commonly on those lists. – Jules Jul 5 '18 at 0:24
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    @Richard - Any part in particular? What was the issue? – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Jul 5 '18 at 7:03
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    @Richard The police aren't a courier service and they can't remove documents from a business without a warrant. They might telephone the company and advise them that they should return the documents but I can't see them collecting them. – David Richerby Jul 5 '18 at 18:04
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I'm not a lawyer in either the U.S. or India, but it is something of a commonplace across history that cooperating with extortion only leads to more extortion: ransomware victims are discouraged from paying the ransom for their files because it will get you a reputation as a valuable easy mark, and you don't want to do that. Possibly you could pay the amount demanded of you and more expensive complications could mysteriously crop up.

Have you touched base with the institution that gave you the original documents first? And explained the situation and asked if they can help? Even if their stated policies do not touch your case as you haven't lost them in the usual term of the sense of carelessly losing things, I'd like to think that people at some educational institutions would just on a human level try to do what they can to give you a useful copy of important documents for your education and professional future. They could of course possibly say "No," but you have a sympathetic story and quite possibly they would want to say, "Yes."

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Just to play Devil's Advocate, your position may be impacted by whether their initial request for the documents indicated that they would be returning them (or charging for the return). A company requesting original documents should have indicated that they would be returned because said documents presumably have value (exam results might seem trivial for some, but consider if the request was for a birth certificate, for example), but some requests for materials come with a note saying that materials sent are considered property of the company and may not be returned, or arrange for conditions for return.

This is a fairly reasonable position if, indeed, it will cost them money to retrieve those documents. In this case, the amount requested seems pretty extortionate, but this may be a standard amount which they apply for, say, a company they worked with asking for the original document of the invoice from March 13th, 2015, requiring them to go to their off-site storage facility and have a filing employees spend several hours manually browsing through the files to find the document in question.

So, long story short, check what they have sent you to ensure that they don't have a legal grounds to charge you for document return, and if so, consider the cost of fighting that versus the cost of document retrieval, versus the cost of requesting another copy from your school.

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    Generally you’re making a good point but I don’t think this applies here: the documents in question are original legal documents: they can’t change owner except under special circumstances. Of course OP needs to consider the concrete Indian legal situation but it’s unlikely to be very different. – Konrad Rudolph Jul 4 '18 at 14:45
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    @KonradRudolph: In the case of exam results, I don't figure there's as much legal protection compared to, say, a birth certificate. I'm not familiar with Indian documents, but this seems parallel to something like an official transcript of college grades, or one's SAT results. If the original document is lost, another one is easily requested. I also sort of wonder if the request for "original documents" was more along the lines of "official documents, not copies" so that they don't get a photocopied or scanned result that lacks a seal of authenticity. – Sean Duggan Jul 4 '18 at 15:05
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    @SeanDuggan I live in India and the ownership of such documents do not change. You can obtain an duplicate document easily but it would require a Police FIR stating that you lost the document. If the OP does that then he would have lied to the police. – user75289 Jul 5 '18 at 5:43
  • Sorry, but I can't see this applying to the situation in the question. It sounds like a simple case of the applicant supplying documents to verify claims made in their application (e.g., their qualifications). When companies have finished verifying these things, they return the documents to the applicant (usually easy because they're now an employee so the company can just hand them back). There's no reason that the documents would have been put in some long-term storage facility. – David Richerby Jul 5 '18 at 17:56

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