Here’s the scenario. A letter from the Department of Homeland Security lands in your mailbox. It’s not addressed to you BUT, it’s your address. Now what?
This happened to me and specifically, the envelope was from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. I’ve been in my home two months shy of a couple years and was about to do what I’ve done with other first-class mail not addressed to me – cross out the address, mark it “RTS” and “Not at Address” with an arrow pointing to the return address. [RTS = Return to Sender]
Being socially connected, I snapped a photo of the return address and posted it on my social media channels where @MiddleSeatView suggested I visit USCIS.gov for instructions on returning it. I appreciated her help but was a little annoyed. Just because someone didn’t update their address, this somehow turned into my problem. On the other hand, this would be a little adventure in finding the solution.
“Paranoia is just a heightened state of awareness.” – Gerald Everett Jones
Hmm. My paranoid self began playing out “what-iffing” scenarios. The name on the envelope was addressed to a name I hadn’t seen in my mailbox before. It didn’t belong to the previous owners, which I learned they rented the house out to both seasonal and long-term renters.
What if I was NOT receiving mail for people who once lived here but what if other people were intentionally using my address?
If I had just crossed out the address and put it back in the mailbox, why would the Department of Homeland Security believe that person wasn’t at the address? Granted, what’s in that envelop might be helping the addressee but if it was so important, why didn’t the intended recipient change their address? Of course, what if they passed away with no one knowing?
Dutifully, the next day I hopped on USCIS.gov and attempted to navigate the enormous digital maze. I searched every term I could imagine and couldn’t find a solution. Picking up the phone, I kicked it old school and dialed the number in the “Contact Us” section.
Smile and Dial. Really.
Anyone who has the patience and know-how to navigate the United States Citizen and Immigration Services phone system must really want to become a U.S. citizen. Saying navigating through the directory layers was frustrating is an understatement.
Just when I thought I’d reach a human voice, the male recording rattled off more instructions on what button to push. Figuring out the magical combination, something like “1,” “7,” “1,”, “*” and singing the national anthem (not really), the recording stated my call may be recorded with the human they were about to connect me with.
As soon as I heard that magical switchover from recording to human, there was silence. The call was disconnected!
Third Time’s a Charm
After two attempts in the morning, I set the task aside and attempted round three in the afternoon. After reaching the third level of directories, somehow I reached a human who was very helpful. She checked with her supervisor and instructed me not to open the envelope (which I didn’t, because I know it’s a federal offense) and mail the envelope back with a letter explaining I did not request it and I do not know the person it’s addressed to.
“I’m a natural-born U.S. citizen, do I need to send a copy of my passport?” I asked.
No, the letter should be sufficient.
And so off it went in this morning’s mail. An envelope in an envelope with two stamps (just in case) and my letter. I hope Mr. Name-I-Cannot-Pronounce is soon connected with the unknown document and achieves the American dream.
Of course, I’m now wondering if DHS will send someone to my home to verify who lives here. Suppose it’s time to vacuum.