United States Postal Service @USPS Passport #Privacy breach – They still don’t “Get it!”

September 9, 2015 at 09:57 (Money, Money & Finance, Privacy, Security, Women Empowerment, Your Bottom line)

We noticed an uptick in complaints regarding United States postal clerks and how they handled the passport process. I renew my passport by mail and get a new one within six (6) weeks. The old one is also sent back to you. The old passports are nice reminders of past travel. The passport photos, on the other hand, is a different reminder!

You can renew your passport by mail if it had not expired past the five years or; you can renew within 15 years from the date of issue. It is a quick and simple process. But for millions of new passport candidates, you must apply in person. You must also renew in person IF your passport expired five years from expiration date or 15 years from the date of issue.

For this undercover SOCIAL EXPERIMENT, my partner and I went to the local post office to see how they handled our passport requests. My partner was looking to get a new passport. I had an expired passport of more than 15 years from the date of issue, looking to get a new passport.

At the local post office, one clerk was seen when we arrived. Another clerk soon came into the scene to help a customer. When we were called to the counter, we stated our need for new passports. The clerk rudely asked, “What are we doing?” Again, we clearly stated our need for new passports, and elabourated that both of us were getting new passports. I stated mine expired. The clerk, INCORRECTLY chimed in, “Oh yes, over 10 years.” The correct answer was over five (5) years, since that would be the correct time after the expiration date. This WRONG response made me feel less confident in the clerk’s abilities.

The clerk again rudely asked, “What do you want? Forms?!” We had the forms. She then rudely stated, “Give me what you got!” We provided her with our folder with the forms all filled out. You could fill out the application forms online and print them. She asked, “What is this?!” She started to crudely go through it and said, “I don’t need this…this is not needed,” and so forth, thumbing through the forms in a rude fashion. The first part of the passport forms are instructions which are printed out with the application.

We asked the clerk if she had a private room where we can process the passport application, since our paperwork was being manhandled with total disregard for privacy. She said, “Nope, this is it!” We were subjected to just the counter and a clerk who did not know the first thing about securing personal information. Mind you, ALL passport applications contain SENSITIVE information including social security numbers! Any ID thief could use the information to create a false persona and RUIN your credit, not to mention your life!!!

We made a request to have our documents examined on the lower part of the counter where there was plenty of space. This lower level would hide the documents from prying eyes. The top counter was visible to all. She again refused and said, “Well, I don’t have any room down there!” This was a LIE, of course. She had plenty of space. She just did not want to do it.

We lifted the folder flap so it created a barrier for prying eyes. Next to us was a customer who ACTUALLY was looking at our paperwork being disheveled by the clerk. He was waiting for some service to be done and it was taking quite a long time. I glared over at him and he quickly turned his head straight away. The clerk yelled at us and asked, “What are you doing?!” We stated, we were doing it to prevent identity theft!

Once we took our stand for MORE privacy, the clerk rudely commented, “Well, that’s ridiculous!” She then nonchalantly stated, “This was a first!” The clerk then rudely stated, “Let’s get the pictures done!”

The clerk took us down a hallway where she opened a door to the back room. A white screen was placed behind a stool. I waited about five minutes until she figured out the camera. She took two pictures. When I asked to see them, she made a long “Sigh,” giving me a clue that she could not even be bothered. She then stated that her battery was dead. I asked, how she could take pictures if her battery was dead. I waited another five minutes with my partner outside the door, until she figured that one out. We promptly ended the session with the clerk and asked her to delete the photos she just took. We were not interested in getting passports today.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Consumers have a RIGHT to take action, when they feel violated or their private information is nonchalantly handled. We all have a responsibility to protect our identity and; to call out others who do not. If we demand better service, often times we will get it. But, we must collectively voice our dissent in order to receive it. This also goes for other acts you too should initiate. If you see something…do something about it! During a recent visit to the CVS, I noticed a customer being ignored. I approached her and asked how long she had been waiting. 45 minutes!!! I promptly went over to the Manager, who was not doing anything of importance, and asked why was this happening on his watch. TAKE ACTION for yourselves and for OTHERS!

FINAL THOUGHTS: Not every USPS experience is the one described herein; however, the privacy and security factor remain. Many USPS locations process passports at the counter and; yes, clerks have a propensity to read aloud information such as full name, address, contact phone number, email address and even; your parent’s information listed on the form. This is a DANGEROUS practice!

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Twitter contact: T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne. #ADVOCACY

© 2015  |  Gabrielle Bourne – T.E.A.M. @gabriellebourne

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