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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.

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

Want more travel news, tips and deals? Sign up to Johnny Jet’s free newsletter and check out these popular posts: The Travel Gadget Flight Attendants Never Leave Home Without and 12 Ways to Save Money on Baggage Fees. Follow Johnny Jet on MSNFacebook, InstagramPinterest, and YouTube for all of my travel posts.

9 Comments On "Video Released of 3 Miami TSA Officers Stealing From Passengers - Here's How To Protect Your Valuables at Security Checkpoints"
  1. Marilyn B|

    I have a gallon size zip lock baggie in the front pocket of every one of our carryon bags (all soft side so have exterior pockets) and tote bags. We find a quiet space before security and husband empties pockets into baggie which goes into carry on pocket or inside tote bag. Also makes it easy to get reorganized after security.

  2. Tony|

    GREAT ADVICE. My addition: Never travel w expensive jewelry. Wife and I were taking one of many trips to Caribbean 20+ years ago – that time on a cruise. We love the Caribbean but poverty and unemployment is well over 30%. We over hear at an adjoining dining table from two young couples how they had been robbed of their “gold and Diamond” jewelry while taking a “private” tour. Wearing things like that in poverty areas is like an invitation to get robbed.

  3. Doug|

    I am a retired military and commercial airline pilot, as well as a retired FAA inspector. The past several times I have passed through TSA security at Denver Int’l Airport the TSA agents told me I had to take my wallet out of my back pocket. I have been enrolled in the TSA Pre Check and Global Entry programs for decades as well. I have carried wallets through these checkpoints for decades without ever having set off an alarm. I carry credit cards, pictures of my kids, pilot licenses and cash in said wallet. In both cases, the TSA agent rifled my wallet looking at every item in the wallet. Fortunately I stood there and watched this happen. Nothing was taken but this has gotten to be absurd what the TSA is doing. I immediately stopped by the supervisor’s desk and voiced my complaint and asked why they were doing this. The only answer I got was that I might be carrying a plastic knife–in this folded wallet. Ridiculous

  4. sawa|

    @Doug, I tried to report some.thing to a “supervisor” just last month, Newark airport…it was a joke. She blew me off, and I said ” you don’t even know which person I’m referring to”—she replied perfunctory and useless “I’ll take care of it” and rudely dismissed me by talking to someone else. The “report” I attempted to make was valid, and the total lack of professionalism by the “supervisor” ( who, by the way, looked like a south Jersey boardwalk walking kid of the 70’s) -was a horrible taste for us that morning just starting out for a nice vacation. Argh. I grew up in Jersey and this is a terrible representation, impression, and relationship for our state.
    Often when we travel other places, my husband and I remark about how well mannered and pleasant the agents are elsewhere.

    “a little bit of power is a dangerous thing”.)

  5. sawa|

    @Johnny, thanks for the great reminders. Helpful.

    I love all of your articles. 💖

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thank you!

  6. Lisa|

    Years ago in Barcelona I was wearing a nice gold necklace. We stopped in the TI office for help. The agent was very concerned and actually followed us out to the sidewalk and insisted I take it off. He said the local thieves would actually knock me to the ground to steal it. He would not leave us until he saw me put it away. He may have saved me from injury. I no longer wear that necklace on trips. I still thank him in my thoughts.

  7. JulieB|

    “A little LEARNING is a dangerous thing.”
    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

  8. Robert|

    I like these little backpack alarms for stuff like this. You could even loop one around your wallet and clip the other side in the interior of your Scottevest pocket to really give a thief a surprise. They were only $9.99 when I first bought them so hopefully the price goes down.

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