Luggage safety: A cautionary tale

Those airport warnings about unattended luggage may help you feel safe from scary things in other people's bags, but what about protecting the nice things in your own? That's the subject of "No Suitcase Is Safe," an article from this morning's New York Times (registration required).

Even Jeff Boyd, president of the luggage delivery service Luggage Free, learned the hard way about protecting his valuables. Neglecting to use his own company's services, he and his girlfriend had about half their belongings stolen en route to Park City, Utah, from New York.

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Such crimes seem to be commonplace, both in the U.S. and abroad. In 2004, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported almost 1,500 "passenger claims for theft, loss or damage to personal items from luggage" at Los Angeles International Airport, followed by just under 1,000 at Chicago's O'Hare. Internationally, the Times' story notes that "risk assessment experts say some airports in Latin America and Africa are known for high rates of theft, with airport security personnel and even government officials sometimes working with the thieves."

It's best to remember that airports, while full of security personnel, are also very attractive to thieves. Travelers are often jetlagged and in unfamiliar surroundings, and they may be carrying expensive items such as cameras and jewelry. Regardless of where you're traveling, know that theft is a possibility and stay vigilant. A few simple measures should go a long way:

  • Prior to check-in, never let your bags out of your sight.
  • Use TSA-approved locks, even on your carry-on luggage.
  • Keep your most valuable possessions close to your body (e.g. in a passport carrier).
  • Carefully watch the conveyor belt for your items as your proceed through security.
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