Protect Yourself Against Checkpoint Theft

Make sure you get to your destination with all your items intact

Theft from airport security checkpoints is on the rise. Protect yourself by following a few simple tips.
••• Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

As more people take to the air, airport theft is becoming a major problem for travelers. In some cases, theft can take place straight from luggage, without travelers knowing it. However, in a growing number of locations around the country, thefts are being reported right at the security checkpoint.

According to a report by the NBC affiliate in Miami, checkpoint thefts at their local airport can happen up to twice a week.

The most common petty criminals are fellow passengers. For these traveling band of thieves, opportunity arises at the checkpoint when people are delayed in retrieving their carry-on luggage, or forget items when they are running off to catch their flight.

While fellow passengers can be guilty of checkpoint theft, they may not be the only ones to blame. An ABC News investigation from 2012 found that 16 of the top 20 airports in passengers also ranked high for disciplinary action for theft against airport employees, including TSA agents. These airports included Miami International Airport, New York's John F. Kenned International, Las Vegas-McCarren International, and Washington Dulles International Airports. 

With everything flying through the security checkpoint at stressful speeds, making sure travelers leave with all of their belongings should be the first goal. Between removing shoes and getting through the body scanning machines, it can be easy to forget pocket change, cell phones, or even tablet computers - all ripe targets for checkpoint thefts.How can travelers protect themselves from being a target of checkpoint thieves?

Here are some ways you can prepare yourself before you even get to the airport. 

  1. Consolidate and carry through the checkpoint
    Before making it to the TSA checkpoint line, make sure to consolidate all items. Tablets and other similar electronics can go in briefcases, purses, or larger bags, while smaller items (like change, airline tickets, and even cell phones) can go into jacket pockets. Those who regularly travel with laptop computers should always travel with a TSA-approved bag that isolates the laptop from other carry-on items. By keeping items consolidated, travelers are less likely to leave something important behind, and open themselves up to checkpoint theft.
  1. Identify all of your loose carry-on items
    In some situations, it can be very difficult to consolidate items. This is especially true when traveling with children, or those who need assistance. For those who travel heavy or with those needing assistance, consider creating an identifying mark or insignia on your items. This can be as simple as placing an address label with your contact information, to as complex as changing your smartphone home screen to display your emergency contact information. By doing this, travelers can easily identify their items before and after they travel. 
  2. Don't walk through the checkpoint before your bags
    With everything moving at the speed of life, travlers may feel the pressure to hurry up by dropping luggage on the belt and letting other passengers send them through. Every moment you don't have eyes on your luggage is another opportunity for a checkpoint theft to strike. When passing through the checkpoint, be sure to watch items enter the x-ray machine, and keep eyes on those items as they pass through the other side. 
  3. Inventory after passing through the checkpoint
    Before replacing the shoes and belt, every traveler should take a moment to make sure that they have everything they went into the checkpoint with. This vital step can help make sure travelers have all of their items, large and small. If something is missing, immediately report the loss to authorities, as they may be able to help track down items, or stop a checkpoint thief in progress. 
  1. Travel with approved locks on luggage
    Securing luggage with an approved Travel Sentry or Safe Skies lock is your first line of defense in against would-be thieves. Keeping an approved lock on your luggage can deter a checkpoint thief, and help keep all of your items while in transit. Always make sure to travel with a Travel Sentry or Safe Skies lock - otherwise, it lock could be destroyed if it needs to be inspected by security or law enforcement staff. 
  2. Immediately report any losses to the authorities
    The moment travelers notice an item missing, immediately make sure to report it to the local authorities. This may include the TSA supervisor at the checkpoint, or to the airport police. By reporting a loss immediately, travelers can increase their chances of recovering items before they fly away with a checkpoint thief.

    The Transportation Security Administration has additional tips to keep yourself from being a victim during your air travel. Click here to read their tips on protecting your property.

    By preparing before arriving at the airport, travelers will have a better chance of protecting themselves from being a target of a crime of opportunity.