An Edmonton family is looking for answers more than a month after their passports went missing from a local courier.
Tenday Danha says two of the passports were recovered but his family’s travel plans and their applications for Canadian citizenship are now on hold, because his daughter’s passport is still missing.
'I feel abused and robbed,' - Tenday Danha
Danha believes the passport was deliberately stolen and could be used to steal his daughter’s identity.
He says DHL Courier hasn’t explained what happened, or what he calls unprofessional behaviour by someone claiming to be a DHL employee who called him the night the passports went missing.
Danha also wants to know why the DHL website was altered later to show the package delivered and signed-for.
“I’ve been bounced from person to person,” Danha said. “I feel abused and robbed.”
Danha and his family came to Canada from Zimbabwe in 2002 and are permanent residents of Canada.
Danha had sent his wife and daughter’s Zimbabwean passports to Harare to be renewed because they were planning a return visit this summer.
But soon after, he got a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada inviting the family to take their citizenship tests and requiring them to bring along all their current and expired travel documents.
Danha requested the passports’ return and tracked their progress from Zimbabwe, though South Africa, the U.K., the U.S., and finally to Edmonton, where the DHL website said they would be delivered on Feb. 12th.
That never happened, but that night he noticed a missed call on his cell phone, he said.
Caller ‘wasn’t professional’
When Danha called the number, the man who answered identified himself as “Sam” from DHL.
Danha said the man spoke in Shona, one of Zimbabwe’s principal languages.
“He was like, ‘Hey Tenday, I got a package for you from Harare and it looks like passports,” Danha said. “It was overly personal.”
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The man said he was Congolese, but had lived in Zimbabwe for 10 years.
While it’s common for newcomers to be familiar with each other when they meet, the conversation made him feel uncomfortable, Danha said.
“It wasn’t professional, that’s why I maintained the conversation in English,” he said.
He was told he could pick up the package at the PakMail location on Calgary Trail after 9:30 the next morning, but the package never arrived.
Danha said he called again and that the same person promised to deliver the package to his home by 7 p.m. that evening.
Passports found several kilometres away
Shortly before that time however, Danha received a call from Edmonton Police Service saying someone had found two of the passports discarded on a sidewalk several kilometres away.
A passport belong to Danha's 15-year-old daughter is still missing.
The passport itself is expired, but it contains a valid and valuable visa for entry into the United States.
Danha says Sam’s over-familiarity and knowledge of his language and country was suspicious.
“I’m highly suspicious of Sam,” he said. “To me, he deliberately created an excuse to not deliver the package on the 12th of February.”
Danha also wants to know why, on the DHL website, his package’s status was later changed to “Delivered” and signed for by Danha, only minutes before police called to say the two passports had been found.
“I actually picked up the passports from the police station, so I don’t know what I would have signed for at 6:27 (p.m.),” Danha said.
Go Public made several attempts to interview DHL and to confirm if Sam was a DHL employee.
In an email to Go Public, DHL’s spokeswoman for the Americas, Verena Huetteneder, would only say the company is investigating and that “we are fully cooperating with police regarding the incident.”
Danha is worried it will take several months and hundreds of dollars to get the impoverished and bureaucratic Zimbabwe government to issue another passport, postponing their Canadian citizenship tests.
Identity theft a real fear, author says
Kelley Keehn, a personal finance writer and author of book on identity protection, says the theft of a child’s passport poses a serious risk because the child’s employment and credit history is a clean slate.
“Almost every piece of information an identity thief needs is on that passport other than a social insurance number,” Keehn said.
Danha should get in touch with credit agencies and the US government to flag them about the loss of the passport and visa in case someone tries to build an identity in the child’s name, Keehn said.
Although police and government agencies do not track the number of foreign passports that go missing in Canada each year, Passport Canada said about 65,000 Canadian passports were lost or stolen last year and that the number has remained constant over the last few years.
However, in October 2013, the Montreal newspaper La Presse, using Access to Information legislation, concluded that in 10 years the number of lost or stolen passports rose 400%, from 12,134 in 2003 to 65,892 in 2012.
Danha said he finds it hard to believe his passports were not stolen.
"There are so many factors not adding up, pushing me to reach the conclusion there was some criminal intent to take that passport.”