Air Travel: "Protect your Luggage from being Pilfered"

Discussion in 'The Haberdashery' started by The Count of Merkur Cristo, Aug 29, 2011.

What Happened to my/our Stuff???

  1. Had 'checked' luggage opened.

  2. Had 'checked' luggage opened & valuables stolen.

  3. Had 'checked' luggage opened, valuables stolen and reimbursed by either Airline and/or TSA.

  4. Had 'checked' luggage opened, valuables stolen and NOT reimbursed by either Airline and/or TSA.

  5. Art is King!!!

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  1. In yesterday's Sunday Washington Post Travel section, this article by Christopher Elliott really
    'caught my eye' (the Mrs. and I have not experienced any of our valuables stolen...but we have a few times noticed :a31: our luggage opened [tagged & not tagged by TSA], and 'rifled' through);

    "Philip Bramson’s iPod vanished from his checked luggage on a recent flight to Mexico, and recovering it seemed impossible.

    He couldn’t even be sure who had swiped it.

    “It was hidden in my luggage, so it could only have been seen through the X-ray or a pretty thorough search,” he says. “The only place this could have happened is during the luggage handling in JFK. There was not enough time in Mexico between when we landed and I was given my luggage.”

    It’s an awful feeling when you open your suitcase after a long flight and notice that something’s missing. But it doesn’t have to happen to you.

    Last month, after I explored the extent of an airline’s liability when it comes to lost luggage — [], which, sadly, isn’t much — many readers asked for tips on how to avoid having their checked bags targeted. I’m happy to help.

    The best way to keep your valuables away from a thieving TSA agent or airline employee [] is to not check a bag, of course. It deprives the agent of an opportunity to enrich himself, and the airline of a $25 checked luggage fee, which it shouldn’t be charging in the first place. But that’s not always possible. People fly with stuff. They can’t — or don’t want to — carry it all on the plane.

    Robert Siciliano, a security consultant, said if you must check a bag, try something downscale but solid. Thieves don’t like cheap luggage, because they assume the contents are worthless.

    And, “hard-back luggage can’t be cut with a razor,” he says.

    Another tactic: the disguise. It works for Renee Fredrickson, a psychologist from Minneapolis, who often checks luggage with valuable contents.

    One time, she accidentally left more than $5,000 in her checked bag. It was returned to her with every penny. “It was in a canvas bag with the name and logo of my son’s preschool on it,” she recalls. “Now I use pink or purple luggage when I travel, unless I’m being met at the airport by another professional. Why not exploit cultural misperceptions?”

    Pack right, too. Some travelers wrap their bags in duct tape, which makes it practically impossible for anyone (including, alas, the owner) to access its contents quickly. You can hire a professional to do that. A company called Secure Wrap, which operates mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean but also has locations at Houston’s Intercontinental Airport and JFK, will cocoon your checked bag in clear plastic for a small fee.

    Ann Lombardi, a travel agent from Atlanta, uses two different-colored metal bread package twisties, with each pair twisted tightly and looped through the zipper holes of her small suitcase. “Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but so far, no one has ever tampered with my luggage during my travels to almost 90 countries over the years,” she says.

    What’s inside is just as important as the exterior, says Bill Horne, a consultant inBoston. If someone opens your bag, you want to give that person a reason to close it quickly.

    He uses his son’s toy sheriff badge and an ID card from a company he no longer works for.

    “The badge has a distinctive design which looks like a real law-enforcement shield on an airport X-ray, thus discouraging collusion between X-ray attendants and baggage handlers,” he told me. “Even if the bag is opened, a sneaky thief doesn’t have time to read the ID card, and the badge creates a visceral impression of big trouble that will motivate a dishonest baggage handler to close the bag back up and move on to the next one.”

    How clever.

    TSA-approved locks, offered by numerous luggage manufacturers, are another option, but only if you trust the TSA. Remember, TSA agents have a master key that lets them access your valuables instantly.

    But the real solution to this problem isn’t subterfuge or packing an airtight suitcase. It is instead stopping baggage handlers and security officials, both here and abroad, who like to help themselves to your personal belongings.

    That could take some effort. Although the TSA insists it has a “zero tolerance” policy on theft (um, show me an organization that publicly admits to tolerating theft) and goes to great lengths to point out how infrequently its agents are caught stealing, the agency charged with protecting the nation’s transportation systems has been in the news with some regularity because of dishonest employees.

    Just this summer, TSA agents made headlines for stealing cash from bags in Newark, swiping laptops from luggage in Orlando and taking $22,000 worth of watches from suitcases in Los Angeles.

    But the TSA isn’t the real culprit as I see it. After all, you entrusted the airline, not the government, with your bag.

    I suspect the only way anything will ever get fixed is if we make airlines pay for every single one of those misplaced bags. And I’m not talking about some wishy-washy international treaty that lets them off the hook for everything but lost luggage. I mean rules with real teeth that say to the airlines: If you force us to pay $25 to check a bag, and something happens to it when it’s in your care, you are responsible.

    By the way, Bramson’s story had a happy ending. I advised him to fill out a claim form immediately with his airline. He did, and after several e-mail exchanges and sending a receipt for the pilfered gadget, his iPod was replaced".

    Christopher [​IMG] "Did you ever notice that the first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone"? Erma Bombeck

    Attached Files:

  2. I abide by the "don't check anything you aren't willing to lose" rule. I pretty much only check clothes and a dopp kit...basically things thieves have no interest in. Everything else goes in my carry on.
  3. maxman

    maxman Moderator Emeritus

    Me too. I would never put an Ipod in checked luggage.
    I've never had a problem with my luggage (except it getting lost).
    But that's not to say that it won't happen someday.
  4. malocchio

    malocchio Contributor

    I had traveled to mount kilimanjaro a few years back,I had TWO of those tsa approved straps around my suitcase,from san francisco to amsterdam to kilimanjaro.I cannot say if it was the netherlands or the american customs,but they cut off both belts,and my suitcase arrived in the kilimanjaro airport wide open,like an open faced sandwich..I had 2 brand new in -the -box professional oster hair clippers,a new radio/cd player and some other valuables in that suitcase.much to my great surprise not one damn thing was stolen,and there are not many airports in africa where this would not have turned into a huge loss...
  5. I put a zip tie through the zippers, if it's missing, there is strong circumstantial evidence that it has been removed by the TSA or Airline. I also, wouldn't put anything "valuable" in a checked bag.
  6. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    I'm travelling soon, so this is a timely post for me. Thanks.
  7. mdevine

    mdevine Moderator Contributor

    My 11 year old was forced to check his carry-on as we boarded the plane (we were among the last to board and the overhead bins were full). He had his Nintendo DS and two games in the outer zipped compartment and we didn't think about it in the rush to board the plane. When we unpacked at our condo, it was no longer there. We called the airline who assured us that they have a strict policy against stealing from luggage. Unfortunately, this is the second time we have had a Gameboy stolen. One was taken from under a pillow at a Disney Resort a few years earlier. I'm sure they had the same no theft policy with their cleaning staff. No policy will prevent dishonest people from stealing when they are unlikely to be caught.
  8. On a recent trip to the states I had a checked bag full of razors I'd sold to fellow members and was posting to the US from the US as it was much cheaper. So I was hoping that it would all work OK.

    Going through customs at LAX was a little tricky (Hmmm I had more than the allowed value of goods I was 'importing' but fortunately they didn't charge me duty) and when I arrived in JFK but my bag didn't I was wondering just how I would explain this to the guys. Fortunately it arrived the next day so it all ended well but you do wonder sometimes....
  9. I had one of my firearms disappear from a bag after it was cleared and checked....luckily the Sheriffs dept was able to recover it for me quickly.
  10. I'm sorry but that's hilarious.
    I'll be sure to use them instead of all the other airlines who allow stealing from luggage! :lol:
  11. Hawaii had a rash of CASH thefts from tourists. Turns out some girl from the TSA was targeting japanese-styled girl-type bags since they tend to carry cash. Caught on video pulling a couple bills off of a roll of cash and pocketing it.

    Kind of dumb - You're blessed to have a job in THIS economy and for a few bucks more you lose your honor, integrity and since she got caught her freedom and job.

    Make sure you report it no matter if its going to be reimbursed or not. Without a report the airlines wont do an investigation at all.
  12. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    You guys have convinced me. I just refreshed the edge on my Gold Dollar for my trip. If they take that I won't cry.
  13. When you travel internationally, there are occasions where you must, in practical terms, check luggage.

    While I agree with much that has been said here, I think your choice of airline can go a long way towards shrinking your risk. For example, EVA is a very trustworthy airline, as is China Air, Korean Air, and several other non USA airlines. Code shared flights are riskier than using a single airline. There are also airports where more things go missing than others.

    For my recent move to Taiwan, I mailed a lot of my valuable shaving gear in advance and used a limited 'travel kit" for my last few weeks in the USA.

    I am well traveled and have, for the most part, been fortunate not to have had many losses. There are some USA airlines I will not fly. Southwest, for USA domestic, has been very good.

  14. I travel for business, usually 2 - 3 weeks at a time, so I normally check two bags. The most expensive things I will check are my shoes and shaving gear, which usually includes my mid-range brushes. No Simpson Chubby or Rooney Stubby, but decent stuff nontheless. I'm not going that long without indulging myself.
  15. My solution to TSA opening my bags is to always carry a firearm in my checked luggage. This forces TSA to scan your luggage in your presence and once you re-lock your luggage it cannot be reopened unless you are present. With that said, a gun friendly TSA Agent advised me to carry a more secure piece of luggage as zippers and locks in and around them can be easily cut off. I am thinking about hard size case with some sort of hasp system that will allow for bigger padlocks.
  16. The only solution is to NOT check baggage. I had my luggage stolen in Jacksonville FL a few years ago. The airline showed that the luggage arrived in JAX but I never saw it. The next day, on the way to the mall to buy new clothes, the cab driver said that is a huge racket. The thief walks into the baggage claim area picks a bag and walks out with it. I just don't understand why there isn't some kind of verification protocol.
    The airline ended up paying me $1400 for about $2200 worth of stuff.
  17. The Nid Hog

    The Nid Hog Moderator Emeritus

    If I'm traveling with anything valuable, I keep it with me at all times. My messenger bag has my computer, camera, recording gear, pens and notebooks, back-up hard drive, phones and anything else I can't replace in it. The only stuff in my checked luggage is my clothing and my shaving kit (with nothing I fear losing).
  18. Doc4

    Doc4 Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    There are some airports where that happens. Philippine Airlines, IIRC, prints out duplicate numbered tags when you check in, and one tag goes on the luggage and the other on the back of your boarding pass. At the end of the flight, in theory, you cannot pass a certain point without the tags being verified. It's usually a bit more chaotic than that, but the thought is there.

    But yeah, a lot of airports seem to use the "honour system" and leave luggage unattended on the carousels for anyone to grab ... if you are not there to say "hey that's mine!!" what's to stop a thief from grabbing it ... nothing. And if confronted, he can easily enough say "well, it looks just like mine ... golly how embarassing" and walk away.
  19. jakespoppy

    jakespoppy Moderator Emeritus

    I always consider that what I pack in a bag that is checked in as at risk of being stolen, so I try to not put anything in it that is either too valuable, or too likely to be interesting to a thief. No electronics, they go in my carry-on bag. The things I most often have to pack are bottles of cologne and shaving gear that I pick up while traveling. So far, knock on wood, none of it has been pilfered. But I don't think cologne and shaving gear are what thieves are after.
  20. I have flown carry only for the past decade. I've learned how o pack so that I have enough for several days of travel. No need to haul any stuff than I need.

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