8 ways to outsmart luggage thieves
TRAVELING makes people do funny things, like pack many of their prized possessions and valuables in a suitcase and let it out of their sight for hours, sometimes days.
But this is inevitable if you’re going away for a while and can’t travel with just a carry-on bag.
As you wave goodbye to your luggage at the check-in desk, you hope and pray you’ll see it again, undamaged and zipped up.
But the reality for thousands of travelers is that they will never see their bags or valuables again, either due to theft or misplacement.
In 2012, the Daily Mail reported New York’s JFK airport suffered more than 200 luggage thefts a day. JFK security lawyer Kenneth Mollins describing the situation as a “flea market” for airport employees.
More recently, a baggage handler at Saigon airport was caught stealing two cell phones from a passenger’s bag as he loaded it on the conveyor belt.
In another incident, an employee at Phuket International Airport was filmed unzipping a passenger’s bag and helping himself to the contents.
Fortunately, these criminals were caught red-handed, and the items could be returned. But some aren’t as lucky, as Sydney-based writer and photographer Michael Gebicki found out.
Gebicki was flying from Georgia to Turkey and upon arriving at Bodrum airport in Turkey, he discovered his Nikon camera and hard drive were missing from his previously padlocked bag.
Gebicki had taken a connecting flight, “one Georgian Airways flight from Tbilisi in Georgia to Istanbul, then another aboard Turkish Airlines to Bodrum,” he wrote on Traveller.com.
He didn’t think anything of having to wait a suspiciously long time for his luggage at Istanbul, other than it may cause him to miss his connecting flight.
By the time most people notice, it’s too late and proving these thefts is almost impossible unless the thief is dumb enough to wear the stolen goods while still at work, in front of those they took from.
Which was the case in 2005 when a baggage handler took a camel costume out of a passenger’s checked luggage and paraded in front of the departures gate wearing it.
But often cases of luggage theft are much more severe, as Gebicki predicament illustrates.
Sometimes luggage goes missing altogether and the airline labels it as “lost” or “misplaced” with no hope of it ever returning.
Whether it’s been held back by baggage handlers for devious reasons or a swift thief has rolled off with your bag before you can get to the luggage carousel, the hurt of realizing your bags are gone is unbearable.
Airports could be more helpful in these situations, but they aren’t. They could install or implement preventive measures, but they don’t.
So here are some tips and tricks to make sure nobody tampers with your bags.
Always carry valuables in hand luggage
Packing precious items in your carry-on bag is the holy mantra of flying.
If you can’t fit all your valuables in one bag, ask yourself, “Do I need to travel with this many of my beloved items?”
If it’s a yes, pay for an extra carry-on bag, it’ll cost less than replacing electronics and jewelry.
If you can avoid a connecting flight, do it.
The airfare may be a little more, but there will be fewer people handling your luggage, decreasing the risk of theft.
Don’t buy designer luggage
Designer luggage (we’re looking at you, Louis Vuitton) shouts, “I have money and I spend it on nice things to take on vacation.”
Instead, use cheaper looking luggage but make sure it’s still sturdy enough to withstand being thrown around.
Make your bag stand out with something silly. Perhaps a funky accessory or a picture of your face?
That way, you can identify it quickly and prove it’s yours in an instant.
Being the first to the luggage carousel means you’ll get the desired spot in front of the “luggage hole” where the bags appear from.
It also prevents anyone walking off with your bag while you’re sampling freebies in duty-free.
Get a TSA-approved padlock
Combination locks are recommended but don’t use “0000” or “1234” because it won’t take a genius to crack that.
You can also buy luggage straps or have it wrapped in cellophane.
Just make it’s as secure as possible.
Note your packed belongings
As you pack, write out everything you’re taking and take a photo of the packed bag.
This way if it has been tampered with or had items removed, you can easily prove it.
Most travel insurance policies will cover you if your valuables or whole bag goes missing.
Check the premium on this claim and make sure they offer enough to repurchase your lost items.
Source: Travels travelwireasia.com