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In July, three Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Miami International Airport (MIA) were arrested for stealing from passengers during security screenings. RELATED: Flight Attendant Caught Stealing Bracelet at Security Checkpoint – Here’s How to Protect Your Belongings
According to affidavits secured by CBS Miami, “The airport federal security director for law enforcement at MIA contacted a Miami-Dade Police detective regarding thefts that occurred at Checkpoint E involving TSA officers. The investigation revealed that three officers, while on duty, were seen on surveillance video conspiring together to distract passengers as they were being screened and stole money from their belongings.” The video, which you can watch below, was just released today.
In the US, airport security agents are caught on camera stealing from passengers’ bags at Miami Intl Airport — a horrible exploitation of the way in which security is implemented (and how bags are often sent through much faster than passengers) pic.twitter.com/yZP2GIKxEu
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) September 14, 2023
If you subscribe to my free newsletter, then you should not be surprised by this at all as I’ve written about this frequently, especially for these two main reasons:
1. It’s almost too easy to steal from security checkpoints
2. TSA pays around $11 an hour so employees are barely scraping by
What’s also not surprising is that the officers worked together to distract passengers. I have covered distraction techniques many times including in a story I wrote about how I met a woman on our cruise who told us that she had gotten robbed at the Barcelona train station a few days prior. She said two young girls, around 17, told her the escalator was broken (it wasn’t) and offered to help with her bags. They helped her with her bags, while also helping themselves to her wallet, which included her passport. She said another friend of hers had mayonnaise secretly squeezed on her shoulder to look like bird poop. The crooks offered to help clean it off and got her wallet, too. Here are some of the most notorious European travel scams to know before you go.
It truly amazes me how blasé passengers are with their belongings at security. I’ve seen tons of passengers just put their watch and wallet in the bin and walk through the metal detector without pushing their stuff through. That’s a huge no-no. Always push your stuff through yourself and never take your eyes off your bin until it comes out at the other end.
Last October, I covered the story of a flight attendant who was caught stealing an $8,000 bracelet from a TSA line and don’t forget about the woman boarding an Emirates flight at JFK airport, who authorities busted for stealing $5,600 from a passenger after reviewing security footage and pulled her off of her flight. The funniest part is that after being caught, she asked if she could just return the money and continue on with her trip. Um, no. Instead, she was arrested and charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
The problem with stealing from other passengers is not just that it’s morally wrong (obviously) and gives you bad karma, but unless you’re really swift, you’ll definitely get caught since there are so many security cameras around. It’s quite shocking people even try it to begin with.
Here’s my advice for keeping your valuables safe when you go through security:
1. Leave the expensive stuff at home
With all of the follow-home robberies reported, it’s just too dangerous to have flashy jewelry and accessories. It also makes you a prime target for thieves like the three TSA security officers just arrested. Just leave the valuables at home to be on the safe side.
2. Place your belongings in your carry-on or jacket
Always put your valuables including wallets, phone and keys in your carry-on bag or jacket, making it more difficult for thieves to grab.
3. Push your bags through the machine
As I mentioned above, always push your belongings through the scanner at security. If there’s a long line of bags but no line at the metal detector, let others pass you by while you wait until your bags are in the machine.
4. Never take your eyes off of your belongings
Unfortunately, stories like this prove you can’t trust TSA officers. I once had a TSA officer yell at me because I got called for random secondary screening and as he was wanding me, I kept my head turned towards the conveyor belt. He told me to look straight ahead. I said, “Sorry, but I’m not taking my eyes off my bag.” If he’d kept on with his power trip, I would have asked for his supervisor.
5. Label your belongings
This should be a no-brainer but it isn’t for some. Always label your phone, laptop and carry-on bag, with your name, phone number or email, just in case you leave it behind. This way, the agents can quickly have you paged over the PA system. Most people aren’t thieves and most of the missing items were left by mistake but have no identification so they have no idea who it belongs to. Note: I purposely omitted writing your home address on your luggage tag because this gives crooks even more incentive as they know where you live and that you’re away. RELATED: How to Prevent an Airline From Losing Your Luggage
6. Do an inventory
A former Miami police officer told CBS Miami that he always takes an inventory before and after going through security so he knows right away if anything was stolen.
7. Wear a Scottevest
I wear a Scottevest jacket during the winter months, which acts as a third carry-on since it has 20+ pockets, including secret pockets that really conceal your belongings. I keep my phone, wallet, glasses and other things in the pockets and just place the whole thing in a bin on the conveyor belt. There are so many pockets I can’t even find my own stuff sometimes so a thief has little chance. Full disclosure: Scottevest is a former sponsor but I still recommend their products because I believe in them. You can check out Scottevest products here and on Amazon.
My vigilance doesn’t stop at security – especially on long flights where there has been an uptick in in-flight thefts. Here’s how I protect my bags and valuables on an airplane. RELATED: Appalling Video of Spirit Airlines Gate Agents Stealing From Carry-On Left Behind and Dumping the Contents in the Trash While Laughing
–10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know
–WARNING: If This Can Happen at Trader Joe’s, it Can Happen Anywhere – Here’s How to Protect Yourself
–Record Numbers of People are Traveling and Thieves Know It – Here’s How to Protect Your Home While You’re Away
–Rick Steves Got Pickpocketed In Paris – Here’s How To Prevent It From Happening To You