You know the drill…when you get to the TSA checkpoint, you have to remove your laptop and other small electronics and put them into a bin so they can go through the scanner. Well, unless you have TSA PreCheck and then they can usually all stay in your bags. But let’s say that you don’t have it – the cost isn’t worth it to you, you’ve applied and haven’t gotten clearance yet, whatever. So let’s say you’re on the regular, non-PreCheck line.
You get through the checkpoint, so you gather all your stuff and go on your merry way to your gate. It’s not until you arrive at your hotel several hours (and hundreds or thousands of miles) later that you realize your laptop is missing. Or your tablet. The last time you remember having it is when you put it into the bin at the TSA checkpoint.
You must have left it behind!
What do you do?
The first thing is DON’T PANIC. You’re not the first one to do this. Not at that airport and not even today. It happens quite a bit.
Figure that either you lost track of all the extraneous stuff you were carrying, or you might have piled one of your bins onto another bin and not realized your electronics were still in that bottom bin. Whatever the case, as long as your stuff wasn’t stolen at the TSA checkpoint (here are some ways to prevent that) rather than simply left behind, you may have a good chance of getting it back, especially if you plan ahead. Here are your options:
TSA’s Lost & Found Department
Because so many people leave so much stuff at the TSA checkpoints, TSA has a Lost & Found department that you can access online. You enter the airport name or code where you left your item, and the website will provide either a phone number to call or a link to an online form to fill out.
As per the TSA’s website, assuming your item is found, “Passengers may return to the airport to pick up their item or may approve someone else, in writing, to do so. Items can be shipped back to the owner at the owner’s expense. TSA is not authorized to spend money to return items to passengers.”
The TSA has partnered with some private companies that specialize in reuniting owners and their property and has entered into an agreement with a company called Rejjee, which promotes, essentially, a lost & found app. TSA notes on its website that it has no position on the validity or effectiveness of any commercial services offered by Rejjee ;-).
To Help You Get Your Stuff Back
A bit of prevention goes a long way and the TSA recommends that passengers place their contact information on the outside of their electronics, such as laptops, just in case the item is left behind. TSA will make every effort to reunite passengers with their belongings.
If You’re Not Reunited With Your Electronics
Sometimes the best plans in the world just don’t work, and your electronics are somehow lost for good. The TSA will hold onto unclaimed electronics for a minimum of 30 days, but a time comes where they’ll need to dispose of the items. If you’re concerned about privacy, know that electronics such as laptops will have their memory removed and destroyed. Smaller electronics will be completely destroyed to protect personal data.
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Yup, I piled one of my bins onto another bin and did not realized my 2 laptops were still in that bottom bin. Flew from Maui to HNL and at 10 pm went to plug laptop in at the hotel and they weren’t in my backpack. UUGh! After much consternation and phone calls finally got them shipped to my home in California. Don’t know why I didn’t wonder why my backpack felt lighter!
What I do is to put another item in the same bin. It used to be a shoe when I was not TSA Pre Check. Now I put my coat or something else when I get Pre Check Lite (which is when there’s not a dedicated Pre Check line).