How to Prevent Theft at Airport Screening

BY Beth Williams

Theft At Airport Screening Stations – This is a Must Read!

Unfortunately, thefts at airport screening stations continue to be reported at airports around the world.  This type of crime is more prevalent now in foreign countries or domestic airports without stringent TSA screening protocols. While this is not a very common type of theft, it is one that can really turn a trip sideways, because it typically includes the theft of passports or wallets or other valuables you keep in your carry-on.

Thieves pull this scam off in a couple of different ways.  One common method involves two scammers working together.  The thieves target you and right before you enter the screening line, both of the scammers walk in front of you in the line.

The first thief scammer goes thru screening without issue, however, the second one,  known as the stall, holds up the line by spending time removing items from their pockets.  Sometimes they even drop change on the ground to slow things down.

All of this is done to allow your bag to go to the other side of the screening station to be picked up by the first scammer, while you are still waiting for the 2nd scammer to finish putting his/her items onto the screening belt.

A second common method is as you are delayed getting through the body scanner someone in front of you picks up a small item belonging to you like a wallet or phone and places it in his larger bag and walks away with it hidden from your view. Sophisticated thieves may hand off the stolen item to an accomplice.

What Can You Do to Prevent it From Happening To You?

1.When flying with a companion make sure one of you has cleared the detector before your valuables get placed onto the conveyor belt, that way the person on the other side of the xray machine can keep an eye on and pick up the bags immediately as they pass through.

When you don’t have a traveling companion and there are unavoidable lines, delay putting your luggage and laptop on the conveyor belt until you’re sure you’ll be the next person through the metal detector. And, as you move through the detector, keep your eyes on the conveyor belt and watch for your luggage and laptop to come through at the other end, while keeping a ‘sharp eye’ on what those in front of you are picking up.

2. Avoid putting loose items of value typically carried in your pocket in a tray and letting it pass through. Place all valuables in a zippered pocket of your carry-on luggage.

3. Wear shoes which you can easily slip off and quickly put back on so as not be distracted away from your valuables.

4. Join a trusted traveler program like TSA Pre Check to facilitate moving through screening with the least amount of hassle.


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