Disturbing news recently that isn’t all news at all – Police made arrests and announced that a ring of LAX baggage handlers stole thousands of dollars of valuables from travelers’ luggage.
According to law enforcement, airport workers quickly rifled through bags, looking for items to steal, and then pocketed the goods.
Unnerving? Yes. But we’ve heard these stories before throughout the world’s airports. Actually, in terms of rankings in the United States, Miami International Airport has fired the most TSA agents for theft.. then JFK in New York, and Los Angeles International comes in third.
Police say stolen items from luggage has been increasing significantly, according to the Wall St Journal.
So what can we do about it? There is no way to absolutely prevent a dishonest worker from taking something from your checked bags – but there are ways to make it less likely.
1) Plain and simple: DO NOT pack anything of value in your checked bags – electronics, money, jewelry are all NO-NOs. Put those in your carry on bags. What was Paris Hilton thinking when she packed a $100,000 watch in her checked bags? It was stolen.
2) If you have something of value you can’t carry on, ship it ahead of time so it is insured. Fed Ex and Luggage Free are two companies to help.
3) Police said about this particular ring in Los Angeles that the thieves were looking for a quick steal, something they could pocket in seconds. Wrapping your bag in duct tape… or wrapping your bag in saran wrap are ways to deter the quick theft – Located at some airport terminals, Secure Wrap engulfs your baggage with saran wrap for about $8-10. Note: If the TSA needs to look through your luggage for any reason, the wrap will be torn off. www.securewrap.com
4) DON”T use expensive designer luggage – the Louis Vuitton logo is just a red flag that there may be something of value inside the bag too. Some people I know use their kids’ luggage as a decoy – men’s suits and belts are items that have gone missing in some cases, and wouldn’t normally be found in a child’s bag.
5) Of course, you can always use a TSA approved lock – but TSA agents have access and some have a track record of stealing too. It is another layer, however, from the average thief.
6) If you opt for a pat down in the security line rather than go through the scanning machine – keep your eyes on your items, and don’t let any loose phones or ipods sit alone, easily available for anyone to take. Ask someone in your party to keep an eye on the items for you, or alert another agent at the other end of the security belt. Sometimes travelers are waiting a bit for an available TSA agent to do a pat down, and every second your stuff is out alone makes it more vulnerable.
7) If you are worried about your entire luggage being stolen, there are FCC approved GPS trackers out there to put in your luggage. Trakdot is one, which sends a text message to the luggage owner about it’s location. www.trakdot.com
It’s no fun to get something stolen – one feels violated, and loses something that could be meaningful. Be careful and smart about how you travel.
Photograph the items in your bag before you go so you can make your case if something does get stolen or your bag goes missing.
If you do notice something missing from your bag, report the stolen items as soon as possible – file a police report and go to the TSA website and fill out papers there. If you want to play sleuth and try to track down your items, some of the dishonest employees arrested at LAX were selling items on Craigs List. But if you find it, contact police instead of contacting the individual on your own.