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Careful with theft in Airports

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Montreal, Canada
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Careful with theft in Airports

I hate to be posting threads like this one as it tends to be interpreted as offensive, but I believe travelers should be reninded not to put ANY valuable in the luggage.

I had traveled 3 days ago from Mendoza to Iguazu through AEP in BA. Of course a delay in Mendoza, and the same in BA, duting the connection. So not sure in which of the two Airports in happened.

When I arrived to my hotel in Iguazu I noticed that things did move around too much. A closer look confirmed that someone went through my luggage, and very thoroughly. They took the time to open everything. So far I have lost only $80 CAD, a brand new watch a bought on the plane and a Belt (not even valuable. Go figure). They did not steal my Camera (expensive) and took the watch without the box. So I believe they could not take anything bulky or that would get them noticed.

I remeber I had read someone else complaining about a similar issue on the BA forum. So wanted to repost so people are aware of it. Not to say that it does no happen elsewhere (charles de Gaule in Paris is also notorious for that)

Not much harm, could have been worse. But people should be reminded that belongings in Suitcases are not necessarily safe...

Nice, France
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11. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

Spartac: I’m sorry about these thefts and someone rifling through your belongings. Thank goodness they didn’t take your camera or its memory cards.

I wish we had a true picture of just how well supervised luggage and its contents are or aren’t once you transfer control of these to an airline or airport or sub-contracted, non-bonded security staff. How well vetted are the latter, for instance? For how long a period and in what kind of physical environments (eg a limited-access room or some passageway) might suitcases be left unsupervised in accordance with airport procedures? Passengers deserve to be able to trust entities that have the right to temporarily take possession of our belongings. I don’t know how this basic need can be neglected when simultaneously counter-terrorism procedures aim to prevent any and all undue tampering with luggage.

It seems to me from past incidents reported that ‘airport’ thefts behind the scene increasingly involve even items of little value, are more likely to occur when a flight is delayed, and affect more passengers the longer a delay continues. How can someone be so free and have the time to devour most of a box of chocolates, return the remains and their crumpled wrappings to a suitcase and wipe his hands on the suitcase owner’s packed clothes? That incident was reported on this forum.

I don’t use locks nowadays due to that master key for TSA that Marnie mentioned. It's in too many official hands worldwide. I only hope that thieves still prefer the idea that the contents of locked suitcases must be more valuable than what’s in unlocked ones. I fear that that TSA-approved lock announces a strong likelihood that the owner of a suitcase is more likely to be American and well-off than from a poor African country.

I also wonder if using twist ties will just irk authorities empowered to open and visually inspect luggage. Once en route to BA, US authorities opened our full 3-4 bottles of different vitamins that we measured out to last us for 5 weeks in BA. They sprinkled every pill throughout our clothes and used footwear and left the tops of those bottles and their now-empty bottles on the very bottom of the suitcase. We never found the plastic ziplok that we had put those bottles together into. We felt that someone was having a bad day and became irritated that those bottles took up his time and wasted it by not containing illegal drugs! So, I’m wary of making their opening our suitcases difficult in any way even though the use of winding twist ties around themselves a few times would help deter a thief.

Your proposition that those “travel gods” extract sacrifices is novel to me and made me laugh. I always assumed they exist to guide and protect our travels and to get us out of the odd jam. Otherwise, why believe in them?

WDC
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12. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

My own experience with TSA locks (and I am not suggesting that anyone follow suit) is that travelling in recent years to BsAs, France, Italy, Africa, Israel and Central America, my suitcase was opened by TSA twice - there was NO mess and NO loss, with a note about the opening left inside the suitcase.

I think that speed is the friend of the thief, and, just imo, the locks or plastic cables signal more work and more required time for the thief...perhaps more valuables, but surely more work and more time. And most very poor travellers are not paying airfares.

So I will take Charla's advice and use those plastic cable ties on any bags without TSA locks (how about with them ?) and know that regardless of precautions, thoughtful packing with potential theft in mind, as posted above, is the best, albeit imperfect, protection of one's goods. And then, sometimes luck is the key factor !

ps to sockhopper: CHOCOLATES are a definite problem for trained TSA officers - they are routinely grabbed and searched for possibility of contraband of one sort or another. This is a CAUTION TO ALL- especially those travelling through any USA airport.

Safe trip for youall and your belongings,

~Marnie

Nice, France
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13. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

Marnie,

I too rely upon the strategy that putting impediments in the way of thieves slows or might slow them down. But I’m concerned with the situation where a thief is free to forage through luggage unwatched in airports.

TSA locks are hard to find outside the US, even in Canada. And too many stories abound about TSA staff ripping them off and pulling out zippers in the offing. I spend 6-10 hours a trip to BA both ways in Dulles Airport and yet I’ve still not seen a TSA lock for sale at a shop in that terminal.

I don’t know if using plastic cable ties irritates TSA officers and makes some revengeful so that they steal things as a form of punishment for making their job harder. I don't have a sense of that body's culture.

My concerns about the security of my belongings in airports have actually grown since the snowstorms at Christmas stranded people for days in the US. Learning that US law only requires passengers on US domestic flights who are staying in the US and not flying outside it the right to be provided a hotel and food by a US airline they paid - when a flight delay continues - dents my sense that my personal safety interests are being served or matter. I can’t see why one group is guaranteed protections and basic comforts by law while the other is left to care for all their money and vital documents while they are asleep on a hard airport floor. Why should one group have a hotel safety box and soap but another not even a bed or access to decent food solely on account of where they are going?

So, I feel it would be unwise of me to think that my property rights in my luggage would receive any better protection. Of course, I’m then more afraid to try out any device like cable ties that might cause some TSA officer difficulty.

The remarkably low percentage of passport holders in the US population supports your conclusion that poor people don't travel. But many other countries’ poor do. I’m used to seeing at airports around Europe what the poor from the poorest countries use as luggage. It’s completely possible to identify the extent of a person's poverty by a dozen aspects about their luggage and what they use as such. It is nothing like what middle-class people use. When those myriad items later pass you on a carousel and after 80 such pieces up pops a piece of luggage that is still actually capable of being locked and is locked, it’s clear which property thieves would go after.

What we choose to do is usually geared to making ourselves just feel safer. But I can gladly report that no TSA official stole or destroyed our “El Viejo chocolates”, each hand-made and beautifully decorated in BA especially for Christmas.

WDC
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14. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

Sockhopper: Dulles is my home airport, and I know TSA locks are available. Just for information, I will check out the particular locations when I am next there.

You might want to evaluate plastic wrap (where available, often in many less developed country airports) for your suitcases. It certainly is a confidence booster against theft.

~Marnie

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15. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

Sockhopper, I don't know what airports the stories arose about irritated TSA agents ripping off zippers due to cable ties being attached. We've been attaching cable ties for years now and have used them for both domestic and international travels. We have never experienced the TSA becoming that irritated with them that they broke our luggage zippers to examine the contents. We've had our checked luggage with cable ties opened up by TSA several times en route to Europe and upon return as well. They not only inserted the standard note that explained why they did so, but lately we've noticed that our cable ties were replaced by an opaque cable tie most likely by the TSA.

Nice, France
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16. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

Paris, thank you for relating your positive experiences with cable ties and the TSA.

I'm wondering if you or anyone knows if the yellow sticker put on the outside of a suitcase and saying that that bag "has been inspected" (with no name of any authority or airport) means that its contents have been manually inspected or inspected by some other means eg. by x-ray analysis or trained dogs. We received those stickers both going to and returning from BA in Nov/Dec.

The stickers were printed in English only. We couldn't tell which country or authority put them there. I don't know if Argentine Security at EZE would use Spanish or English or both languages on such stickers. I doubt it was Canada, however, because then the stickers would have had to have been printed in both English and French.

There was no notice inside any of our cases of the kind previously described in this thread which leads me to think that our luggage was only x-rayed, but if that's so, surely they wouldn't need to notify us of that on a sticker?

I also wonder if those notes left inside the case state WHO examined the luggage and where.

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17. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

Sorry. I don't have any idea about the yellow sticker notices. The TSA notices if I remember correctly doens't contain the agent's name.

Edited: 04 January 2011, 01:51
18. Re: Careful with theft in Airports

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