Going through airport security? Here’s how to protect your belongings

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TSA airport security checkpoint
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Air travelers have a million things on their minds, many of them questions like: Did I forget to bring my keys? Did I leave the porch light on? Where’s my ID? If you’ve been hustling through the airport, the last thing you may think about is the here and now. But that’s exactly where our minds should be and here’s why.

Crooks have found a new way to target tourists and other travelers even before they’ve gotten to their destinations. Thieves at UK’s Gatwick Airport just outside London have been stealing personal items from the security checkpoint conveyor belt, according to the Daily Mail. Items such as laptops, cosmetics, jewelry and even a loved one’s ashes have all gone missing, the Mail reports.

Attention, travelers: Here’s how to guard against in-airport theft

If you think it’s only happening in England, you should think again. Even as far back as 2008, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said that more than 10,000 laptops were reported stolen every day, according to PCWorld. Further, a 2017 study conducted by Stratos Jet Charters, an air charter service, showed that it’s extremely difficult to get reimbursed by the TSA once an item is reported as missing or stolen.

Nearly 70% of the claims were denied, according to the Stratos Jet Charters study. Claims that were fully approved tallied less than 32%. The frustrating thing is that when it comes to most matters of air travel, security and the like, multiple aviation agencies can pull out all kinds of statistics (the FAA even tracks unruly passengers), but curiously for in-airport theft, there aren’t a lot of resources on the matter. In fact, officials frequently count missing belongings, reported thefts and related claims in the same category.

That makes it all the more concerning when we arrive at our destination after a long flight only to discover that an item we know we packed has disappeared. By that time, it may be a challenge to even remember where it vanished: Was it on the plane ride, in baggage claim or on the Uber ride home?

Then there’s the matter of whom do you call — the police, the airline or one of several agencies in the mix?

Air travelers are even more vulnerable when you consider that they trustingly leave their belongings behind in many cases as they’re ushered through the TSA security checkpoint. That’s what happened to a traveler in England’s Gatwick airport, the Mail reports.

“As I walked through the scanner, I set off the beeper and had to wait to be searched. By the time I reached my stuff, trays were piling up,” Antonia Collins told the publication. “When I realized my makeup was missing, I alerted airport staff, but they were obviously busy and handed me a flyer with an email address. ‘I said it had been stolen in the last few minutes — could they not sort it promptly? But they wouldn’t.”

Another passenger reported that her bags made it through security much quicker than she did — and that’s when her laptop went missing. After three days of emails, she finally was put in contact with the terminal manager, who told her there was nothing he could do.

With that being said, is there anything we can do to protect our belongings in the airport? Here are some good security tips to remember:

How to protect yourself against in-airport theft

Take inventory: It may be too difficult to keep a mental tally of your most valuable possessions, but what’s stopping you from writing it down on a sheet of paper? You can keep it in your hand along with your boarding pass and ID while being processed through security or even in your phone.

There’s an app for that: Yes, your de facto note-taking app in your smartphone could be a great way for you to jot down your most prized possessions, and you can even take pictures of your items for further proof.

Slow down: Sure, you’re hurried and rushing through the airport to catch that flight, but how good (and costly) will that ride be if you lose your stuff? Be deliberate about what’s in your hands, pockets and bags. Take a second and sloooow down. Be aware of your surroundings and of course, don’t leave your luggage unattended.

Be your travel buddy’s ears and eyes: If you can, pay attention to the bags of your traveling companion and have them do likewise. Because of delays, you may not be able to keep track of your items once they’ve been placed on the conveyor belt, but in many cases someone you’re traveling with can.

Small, discreet bags are best: The more your luggage stands out, the more of the wrong kind of attention you could attract. Large, colorful bags with assorted toiletries deep inside will do nothing but slow the security line down. And see-through bags will only tempt criminals in plain sight. Keep on your person a small, discreet bag with your essentials. When it goes through security, be quick to locate it along with the rest of your stuff.

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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