Dear PoPville – Visa Agency Leaves Personal Info by Dumpster by in Adams Morgan

Dear PoPville,

I wanted to let you know about an issue I discovered this morning. While walking in the alley from my car to my office, I noticed some boxes by the dumpster. What caught my attention were some official looking documents. I flipped through and found visa and passport forms will people’s personal information, including social security numbers! There was even someone’s birth certificate (visible below) just sitting on top! I called the police to let them know about the issue, as well as the Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General. I showed the officer what I had discovered, and then he went to the company’s office on 18th Street, NW. Shortly thereafter, I saw him taking all of the boxes back into the offending company’s office. When he left, he told me that “an assistant accidentally took out the wrong boxes”.

34 Comment

  • a former assistant, i’m hoping

  • Eek! What’s the name of the company? Our firm uses one nearby…

  • Jebus. That could have been a big issue for a whole bunch of people.

  • Thank you good citizen!!

  • If I remember from getting my passport, they are supposed to send your birth certificate back to you. This is not good.

  • that’s effed up. glad the poster stayed and reported it.

  • I would not be the least bit surprised if Travisa were responsible for this.

  • GAH. Yes, Travisa is the worst. The amount of handholding required to walk them through the process of securing a pretty straightforward visa exceeds the level of effort required to just do it myself. Never again. At least I can properly count the number of business days and calculate when a visa will be ready.

  • Thanks for letting me know. Sorry about your identity—tomorrow.

  • i don’t know about travista, but i’ve used visa obtainers on vermont before and they were pretty good.

  • No, they did not “accidentally” take out the wrong box, not when there is obvious PII all over the files flowing out of that box. Pure laziness. And I hope the “officer” actually spoke with a manager, not the clerk who might have said someone else made the mistake. I use the term “officer” lightly because my confidence in MPD is at an all-time low.

    • +1.

      The photo shows personally identifiable information (PII) mixed in with non-PII, like FedEx envelopes and a pizza flyer. “Wrong box,” my foot!

  • While it’s great that the poster did something about this rather than just submitting a photo to PoP and walking away, what’s the purpose of submitting this post at all? If it’s a caveat emptor post, there’s no identifying information as to the company in question. And it’s not a “what should I do?” post, since the poster clearly did the right thing already. So is it just a “check out my good deed” post? Isn’t knowing you did a good deed reward enough, or does is not count unless the internet knows, too?

    • Well, what I learned was that at least one visa agency in D.C. is totally untrustworthy, and it makes me wonder if the others are equally careless.

      Two relatives of mine wanted to travel to India and (if I remember correctly) were told that they HAD to go through a visa agency — I think it was in Georgetown. I hope the agency that handled their paperwork was more circumspect than this one.

      • I’m the one above who said “I would not be the least bit surprised if Travisa were responsible for this.” Travisa is the agency in Georgetown that processes visas to India. My girlfriend and I have had to deal with them on several occasions and they are completely unprofessional.

    • As the person who found this “trash”, called the police, and notified PoP, I did want to chime in. The company is “Travel the World Visas” at 1930 18th Street NW. I was horrified when I found this information in the alley; I almost called some of the people whose forms and information were there…especially the guy whose ORIGINAL birth certificate (or at least the official copy) was sitting on top. I did not get to take it that far, as the police officer came and I assumed he was going to keep everything for evidence. I though the “assistant took out the wrong box” was complete BS and I was disappointed at how everything was handled. I would certainly not trust this company. As another commenter said, go to the embassy or consulate…especially since we are in DC. The problem was that these were people from all over the country, so they did not have this luxury.

      • Also, I did let PoP know the company name, but I guess they chose not to disclose that. Since you asked, I did disclose it. :)

        • Okay, gotcha. That’s good stuff to know and helpful advice. And sorry if my comment came off as harsh; I didn’t realize the post had been redacted. Thanks again for doing the right thing!

      • PII Finder, well done, and great thinking on alerting the State Department’s OIG!

      • Thank you for your kindness and warning. I’ve had someone get into my bank account and credit cards. It’s no joke.

        Why that original BC is in there is unfathomable.

  • I travel a lot for my work, and strongly prefer to get my own visas.

    My company has a visa service. Once they said they needed 5 days to get a visa to Ethiopia, which I didn’t have. I went to the Embassy myself, and it took 17 minutes.

    I have seen the agents of these visa agencies at various consulates. They come across like they have just been released from prison.

    It is fairly easy to access consulates here in DC. I suggest you get your own visas.

  • Technically you can have a consultate in a capital as well, since a consultate handles consular issues, to include passports.

  • I would be shocked of this is not a regular occurrence at this business.

  • He or she couldn’t have just walked into the office and told them they are throwing away private documents? He/she wasted a lot of resources just for someone to pick up some boxes from the alley that were mistakenly thrown away.

    • Are you serious, or just trolling? (Or an employee of the visa company in question?)

      Identity theft is a big problem. Companies who have access to personally identifiable information and fail to take proper care of it need to be punished.

      • Agreed. It was entirely appropriate for the OP to notify the authorities. This goes beyond “sloppy.” Everyone who deals with this business — as well as the business itself — should be informed of this incident. Fortunately, someone has already posted a link to this story on the company’s Yelp page.

      • So how do you punish corporations who have PII issues all the time?

    • Getting a police officer all in their face is going to be a lot more memorable than having J.Q. Public do it. Heck if the OP had done it they may not have even pulled the stuff out of the ally and ignored the whole thing assuming the OP was being obnoxious. So yes getting the police involved was the best solution.

  • To the PII finder, have you considered posting a review on yelp or google? You’ve already done a lot, but that might help to get the word out to people who are not local but might use the service.

    • Great idea! Unfortunately, I’m not a Yelper, so my review would get filtered. Anyone else who regularly posts on Yelp or Google is more than welcome to highlight this story.

  • I can recommend Washington Passport & Visa Service at 2318 18th Street NW. Have used their services several times over the years. They are very knowledgeable, efficient and discrete. Ask for Bob. He’s great!

  • Allison

    Bravo OP! Excellent actions taken.

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