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View Full Version : Could confidential personal information be compromised by the Visa Bulletin debacle?


Thombi
07-11-2007, 08:53 PM
Has anyone considered the implications of identity theft, fraud etc if the USCIS does start returning the adjustment of status applications? When my daughter applied for adjustment of status a couple of years ago her application was rejected erroneously and returned to her. When she opened the package, it not only contained her information, but also someone else's highly confidential and personal documents. The documents were completely mixed in with hers - all out of order - and even the other person's check was returned to her. The person's case was also very time sensitive and of an extremely confidential nature.

We gathered up the information and personally returned it the local USCIS office - who told us it happens all the time! We sent a letter to the person concerned telling him what had happened and advising him to contact the office immediately.

Imagine what might happen if the USCIS starts returning the 1000's of July applications. There is a good possibility they could mix up applications, return them to wrong addresses or lose valuable paperwork. They certainly won't return applications via Fedex or UPS - they'll just throw them in the mail without any way to track them.

Many green card applicants, have social security numbers and have been working for years to build good a credit history. Anyone getting hold of these packages will have access to all personal history, addresses and of course the bank account information on the checks sent to pay the application fees. Just a thought . . .

srikondoji
07-11-2007, 09:17 PM
If this happened to your daughter before even the july fiasco, what didfference it makes if it happenes again with the fiasco over our heads?

What kind of identity theft you think will happen and why?

When it happenes with your credit card at famous outlets, why the heck we should be too worried if it happens at USCIS?

Whatz your point?

sandiboy
07-11-2007, 09:23 PM
Thombi... You have some very good point... It will definitely be another lawsuit in the making

akhilmahajan
07-11-2007, 10:32 PM
If this happened to your daughter before even the july fiasco, what didfference it makes if it happenes again with the fiasco over our heads?

What kind of identity theft you think will happen and why?

When it happenes with your credit card at famous outlets, why the heck we should be too worried if it happens at USCIS?

Whatz your point?

Cant you think and understand what the post meant?
He is mentioning a very valid point. 485 has all the information which one needs to screw up some one's credit history which takes years and years to build up.

I hope now u will get the point.

saimrathi
07-11-2007, 10:36 PM
Thanks for bringing this up.. This is a legitimate concern.. Lets just hope this doesn't happen to any of us... Although hope is all we can do for now...:(

Has anyone considered the implications of identity theft, fraud etc if the USCIS does start returning the adjustment of status applications? When my daughter applied for adjustment of status a couple of years ago her application was rejected erroneously and returned to her. When she opened the package, it not only contained her information, but also someone else's highly confidential and personal documents. The documents were completely mixed in with hers - all out of order - and even the other person's check was returned to her. The person's case was also very time sensitive and of an extremely confidential nature.

We gathered up the information and personally returned it the local USCIS office - who told us it happens all the time! We sent a letter to the person concerned telling him what had happened and advising him to contact the office immediately.

Imagine what might happen if the USCIS starts returning the 1000's of July applications. There is a good possibility they could mix up applications, return them to wrong addresses or lose valuable paperwork. They certainly won't return applications via Fedex or UPS - they'll just throw them in the mail without any way to track them.

Many green card applicants, have social security numbers and have been working for years to build good a credit history. Anyone getting hold of these packages will have access to all personal history, addresses and of course the bank account information on the checks sent to pay the application fees. Just a thought . . .

TomPlate
07-11-2007, 10:41 PM
Why in the first place you guys are applying if they say in a news that they are going to reject. It is all because of the lawyer. Whatever goes wrong let the people who applied suffer. Whatever goes right let the people who applied be happy.

jay21
07-11-2007, 11:01 PM
why can't everyone request the USCIS to send it by Fedex or UPS, assuring that we will bear the special charges.

srikondoji
07-11-2007, 11:10 PM
I have a valid point to akhilmahajan.
I work for security industry (database auditing) and i do know the concerns and security related issues.

Here USCIS may be sending the information of one applicant to the other applicant. This may happen with a probability of 1 in 100.
Now tell me, what will you or i be doing with someone else's data?
Atleast skilled immigrants like us will not harm and or destroy knowingly someone else's credit history. This will not only destroy your future citizenship options but will also lead to deportation in case you are caught.
Also, there will no credit card numbers and or bank account details to be lost.
One more thing is, you can always fight back and reverse the screw up that may happen in case your social security number is misused and you have a proof of it.

By saying this, what iam saying is, the threat is not as serious as the thread author seems to indicate. There are bigger concerns on our plate who needs our attention.

Unless the USCIS mistakenly publishes your data on website and or looses hard disk with all the data in it at walmart, you shouldn't be worried.

Peace.


Cant you think and understand what the post meant?
He is mentioning a very valid point. 485 has all the information which one needs to screw up some one's credit history which takes years and years to build up.

I hope now u will get the point.

saimrathi
07-11-2007, 11:13 PM
I think there is a concern here.. please dont undermine it.. after all if we can remember what happened at the Indian Consulate (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/02/02/MNGHNNTLI81.DTL) It can happen anywhere....

Sensitive data dumped at recycling center
Indian Consulate tossed visa applications from business, political figures at S.F. facility

David Lazarus

Friday, February 2, 2007
Thousands of visa applications and other sensitive documents, including paperwork submitted by top executives and political figures, sat for more than a month in the open yard of a San Francisco recycling center after they were dumped there by the city's Indian Consulate.

The documents, which security experts say represented a potential treasure trove for identity thieves or terrorists, finally were hauled away Wednesday after The Chronicle inspected the site and questioned officials at the consulate and the recycling facility.

Among the papers were visa applications submitted by Byron Pollitt, chief financial officer of San Francisco's Gap Inc., and Anne Gust, wife of California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"It's shocking and totally unacceptable," Brown said when asked about the incident.

Information on the documents includes applicants' names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, professions, employers, passport numbers and photos. Accompanying letters detail people's travel plans and reasons for visiting India.

"As we see it, the documents are not confidential," said B.S. Prakash, the consul general. "We would see something as confidential if it has a Social Security number or a credit card number, not a passport number."

But security experts say it wouldn't be hard to obtain someone's Social Security number using the information available in the consular documents. They also point out that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used false passports, which wouldn't be hard to obtain using data and photos from the documents.

"This is absolutely sensitive information," said Charles Cresson Wood, a Sausalito information-security consultant. "It needs to be safeguarded."

Pratik Sircar, deputy consul general for the Indian Consulate, said the office on Arguello Boulevard processes visa applications and other paperwork for 14 Western states.

"We have a shortage of space," he said. "We keep this material for a year, and then we have to destroy it."

However, the consulate didn't destroy the documents. Instead, it hired a hauling company in December to cart the boxes to the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council recycling center near Golden Gate Park on Frederick Street.

The open-air facility is accessible to the public seven days a week. Anyone can walk through the gate and poke around.

"We thought it was their job to shred the material as soon as they got it," Sircar said.

Andy Pugni, general manager of the recycling center, responded that he doesn't know where the consulate got this idea.

"We take in paper, put it in large containers and ship it off for recycling," he said. "That's all we do. We don't shred."

Pugni added: "We assume anyone who brings stuff over here will be smart enough to destroy any sensitive materials. I wouldn't bring any of my own materials here."

Alerted by The Chronicle to the presence of confidential documents in a corner of the recycling yard -- many of the white boxes were clearly marked "visa applications" -- Pugni had a truck brought in to haul the papers to an East Bay company that will boil them down and recycle them as blank pages.

All that remained in the yard Thursday were remnants of the boxes.

But a sampling of documents obtained by The Chronicle indicate that the boxes contained confidential paperwork for virtually everyone in California and other Western states who applied for visas to travel to India between 2002 and 2005.

They also contained thousands of documents submitted by Indian citizens and people of Indian background residing in the region.

"It's hard to believe that this is how confidential information is treated," said San Francisco resident Farah Champsi, who was born in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, and requested copies of her birth certificate in 2005.

Her application ended up at the recycling center. "This is terrible," Champsi said.

Visa applications were submitted by current and former executives of many of the region's leading employers, including AT&T Wireless Inc., Oracle Corp., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

The documents illustrate the extent to which major U.S. companies have established operations in India or rely on India for key services.

A letter from Gap's then-CEO Paul Pressler accompanying the visa application for Pollitt says the company's CFO was heading to India for several days in April 2004 "for the purpose of visiting Gap Inc.'s sites and vendor facilities."

After the application surfaced this week, Pollitt said he found it "both astonishing and alarming to learn that basic safeguards were apparently not in place to ensure the privacy of my personal information.

"As a past victim of identity theft, I am painfully aware of how important it is to ensure personal information is well protected," he said.

Another Bay Area exec whose privacy was jeopardized is Rob Haragan, co-founder of NetDevices Inc., a Los Altos company that specializes in network security. Much of NetDevices' research is conducted at a facility in Bangalore.

Haragan, a former executive at Cisco Systems Inc., applied for a visa to travel to India in 2004. He estimates that he's since been to the country more than a dozen times.

He said he was surprised to learn that his application spent weeks at a recycling center.

"The consulate absolutely needs to correct this," Haragan said. "It's a breach of trust."

Brian Biega oversees storage of internal paperwork at Redwood City software giant Oracle, so he knows a thing or two about the proper handling of confidential documents. He, too, applied for a visa to visit India in 2004, and his application also ended up at the recycling center.

Biega didn't hesitate when asked how Oracle's famously truculent CEO Larry Ellison would react if boxes of sensitive information were left at a recycling center. "I'm sure I'd lose my job," he replied.

At the Indian Consulate, Consul General Prakash said there may be a cultural dimension to the level of outrage related to the incident among Western visa applicants.

"In India, I would not be alarmed," he said. "We have grown up giving such information in many, many places. We would not be so worried if someone had our passport number."

Deputy Consul General Sircar said that in other countries, Indian officials are able to go to the roofs of their offices and burn documents they're no longer able to store.

"In America, you cannot do that," he said.

Sircar said the consulate would find some other way to deal with its excess paperwork in the future.

Pugni at the recycling center said that shortly after he had the documents carted away, a representative of the consulate arrived at the facility.

"He apologized for everything," Pugni said. "Then he said he was on his way to Best Buy to pick up a shredder."

David Lazarus' column appears on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He also can be heard on Saturdays, 4 to 7 p.m., on KGO Radio. Send tips or feedback to dlazarus@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/02/02/MNGHNNTLI81.DTL

Thombi
07-11-2007, 11:26 PM
I was not implying that legal immigrants would abuse the information if they received someone else's documents, but with that many rejected applications in the mail and lying in mailboxes, there is always a possibility of theft by others. Also documents like the medical exams are expensive to replace.

jayram123
07-12-2007, 01:28 AM
As a victim of identity theft, I can tell you first hand that there is serious potential that this could be an issue. There is no guarantee that the person who received your document will return it first off. What if he simply throws in the trash? USPS makes mistakes all the time. What if your package is placed by USPS in someone else's mailbox? Or what if CIS puts the wrong address on the package?

Anyway, bottomline it has potential but I do not know that we can do anything at this point other than worry and hope.

OLDMONK
07-12-2007, 01:52 AM
Forget Identity theft. What about you bank statement showing balance, your W2, other value of assets, your children ages with pictures along with your FULL RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS / WORk ADDRESS / PHONE goes to an unknown source.

Most important information about you which can lead to a crime against you.

Its a scary situation.

So yes my concern would be personal / family safety more that barely credit history which can only do financial harm.

but probability of all the above happening is low.

akhilmahajan
07-12-2007, 08:52 AM
I have a valid point to akhilmahajan.
I work for security industry (database auditing) and i do know the concerns and security related issues.

Here USCIS may be sending the information of one applicant to the other applicant. This may happen with a probability of 1 in 100.
Now tell me, what will you or i be doing with someone else's data?
Atleast skilled immigrants like us will not harm and or destroy knowingly someone else's credit history. This will not only destroy your future citizenship options but will also lead to deportation in case you are caught.
Also, there will no credit card numbers and or bank account details to be lost.
One more thing is, you can always fight back and reverse the screw up that may happen in case your social security number is misused and you have a proof of it.

By saying this, what iam saying is, the threat is not as serious as the thread author seems to indicate. There are bigger concerns on our plate who needs our attention.

Unless the USCIS mistakenly publishes your data on website and or looses hard disk with all the data in it at walmart, you shouldn't be worried.

Peace.

I hope i did not offend you.
It looked to me a valid point.
Anyways, everything is all set now and i hope this does not happen to anyone.............