Missing passport leaves woman worried

October 4, 2011 12:13:21 AM PDT
Every year, millions of passports are sent through the mail, but the government doesn't require anyone to sign for them, when they arrive at their destination. That policy led to a nightmare for a San Francisco woman.

It was an exciting moment for Snehlata Oberoi. In a group ceremony in Oakland, the orthodontist from India took her oath as a naturalized U.S. citizen.

"There were so many people from so many different nations, it was very touching and moving," Oberoi said.

Right afterward, Oberoi applied for her U.S. passport, so she could fly to India for a conference.

"They said two weeks, within two weeks you should get your passport card," she said.

Oberoi did receive her naturalization certificate in the mail, but not the passport. She waited three more weeks then began to worry.

"So I looked up the tracking number online; it said your item was delivered at 11:15 on June 17 in San Francisco," she said.

The tracking report says her passport was delivered in June. It also says "a waiver of signature was exercised on delivery." But, Oberoi says that's impossible.

"I'm not sure who waived at the time of delivery because I was not home on a Friday afternoon," she said.

Oberoi called the U.S. Postal Service which repeated the tracking report -- the package was delivered, signature waived.

Oberoi and her roommate Heidi Li began to worry a thief might be using her passport to open accounts or even travel under her name.

"I just want to know where my passport is, who is in possession of my passport, it's like identity theft," Oberoi said.

"If someone is trying to use someone else's identification to travel, what does that mean," Li asked.

Oberoi called 7 On Your Side and we contacted the State Department. The agency would not discuss her case, citing privacy rules, however it said lost passports are automatically canceled and cannot be used for international travel. The agency also said, "Generally, the Office of Passport Services does not require signatures for the delivery of passports, and millions of passports are delivered every year without incident."

Oberoi says someone should make sure passports get into the right hands.

"It's a very secure document that needs to be sent in a secure fashion; it should always be sent with signature required on delivery," she said.

The Postal Service said its records show the package was delivered here, but Oberoi says she never saw it.

"It should be in the mailbox and it wasn't; I think it was never delivered," Oberoi said.

Oberoi's mail slot is in a door leading to her garage, which requires an electronic pass code to enter. No one can break in. Now the new citizen says she's living with worry.

"The whole excitement of getting naturalized just kind of died down," she said.

The government did send Oberoi a duplicate passport in time for her trip to India, and after our inquiries the Postal Service is still investigating her lost passport.

The Postal Service says if you suspect someone took something from your mail, you should file a crime report immediately with the Postal Inspector's Office.

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