Home Airports How To Prevent Theft At The Airport TSA Screening Checkpoint

How To Prevent Theft At The Airport TSA Screening Checkpoint

by SharonKurheg

Fearing loss or theft, people traveling by plane often bring their most valuable possessions with them in their carry-on bags. Doing that will usually prevent stuff from getting lost. However, theft can still be an issue, especially when you and your bags get separated. Like when they have to go through the security checkpoint at the airport.

You’d think that your stuff would be safe while it’s going through the checkpoint. I mean, it’s got how many sets of eyes on it? And yet stuff gets stolen just about every day, because, if you think about it, no one except the individual owners knows which stuff belongs to them. So it’s the perfect opportunity for a thief or thieves to take what isn’t his/hers/theirs.

It happens more often in foreign countries or in domestic airports that don’t have stringent TSA screening protocols. It also can happen as a single thief or two scammers working in tandem. Whatever the case, your stuff can be gone before you get through the scanner.

Here are some ways to help prevent that from happening:

  • Do your best to stay “ahead” of your stuff so you will be right there when it comes out of X-ray. (If you’re “behind” your stuff and it comes out of X-ray before you get there, it’s sitting there, unsupervised, until you come to get it. That makes it a target for thieves).
  • When you have to empty your pockets before going through X-ray, put everything into your bag – If your wallet, passport, money, etc. are sitting loose in a container, it’s easier for someone to quickly grab them and walk away. If they’re secured in a zippered pocket of your bag, it’s one more step, as well as more time for a would-be thief to get to your stuff (they also may not know where to look if your wallet etc. are out of sight).
  • Have your stuff be bright colors (orange bag, yellow strap around your laptop, etc.) so they’re easy for you to see, even if you’re 20+ feet away. Keep watching your stuff and if you see someone taking it, alert a TSA agent immediately.
  • If you’re traveling with someone else, have them go through a few people ahead of you, so they can watch both their and your stuff as it goes through X-ray and winds up on the other side.
  • Wear slip-on shoes. If you don’t have TSA Pre-Check and go through the regular scanner line, you have to take your shoes off. You can put on slip-on shoes much faster than you can shoes with laces, thereby decreasing the chance of your being distracted from your stuff.

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Tony October 13, 2019 - 11:10 am

One point that should be included, is that the TSA officers are just as likely to be the theives themselves. Twice, I had valuable items stolen by TSA officers. They take advantage of “extra” security measures, such as having to go through a bag after the xrays. In one instance of this, the TSA officer stood in front of my bag, blocking my view, while rummaging through my bag. Another officer also stood between me and my bag while wanding me. I am not sure if they were working together. I didn’t realize until I arrived at the gate that a $400 pair of sunglasses I had carefully tucked away in my bag, were missing. I had to quickly board the plane and didnt have time to return. For both instances I was robbed by TSA, I filed a report. Nothing came of it. TSA, in my perspective, is nothing more than for show anyway. I worked as a casino security officer and we had a substantially longer and more in depth training than TSA officers get. I assume this is why there is usually a police office posted at many TSA stations, to manage the REAL security.

SharonKurheg October 13, 2019 - 7:36 pm

I can’t say that I disagree with you. However, as far as I can think about it, there’s unfortunately nothing we can do if/when that happens.

Derek November 21, 2022 - 8:16 pm

Another tip is to not be hesitant to yell. I once got a secondary screening while my bag was finished with the usual screening and sitting at the end of the conveyor belt. I saw someone poke at it. Why wait until they steal it?

I yelled “STOP THIEF! STOP THIEF!” and pointed at the end of the conveyor belt. The thief got scared and walked away without the bag. The TSA was really slow but eventually a supervisor came and even when told that the thief decided not to take the bag, he said he would review the video tape.


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