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One of the big travel news stories from this week concerned a flight attendant who was caught stealing an $8,000 bracelet from a TSA line.
According to The Washington Post: “A woman identified as a Republic Airways flight attendant was arrested Monday at Reagan National Airport after authorities said she took a passenger’s bracelet set from a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.
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“Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said Rebecca Valley, 60, of Wesley Chapel, Fla., works for the regional carrier and was charged with one count of grand larceny. The owner of the jewelry reported that it was valued at $8,000, Nosal said.”
This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that something gets stolen at a security checkpoint. It’s too easy and it’s easy to see why someone who is desperate would try this since so many travelers are oblivious.
A few more details about the flight attendant who was charged can be found in this video:
I once had a passenger in front of me put his carry-on bags on the conveyor belt and his phone, wallet and car keys in a little bin, then went through the metal detector. Of course, it went off since he was wearing a large Rolex watch, so he put that in a bin which, by then, ended up behind my bag, which was already in the machine.
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The man of course was in a hurry, like so many travelers and he forgot to take his watch on the other side. I noticed it and had to yell to him that he’d forgotten the expensive watch. But if I were a thief, I could easily have grabbed it. Fortunately, there are tons of security cameras so many thieves do get caught but not all, which is why I’m sharing these tips for going through security checkpoints:
1. Leave the expensive stuff at home
These days it’s just too dangerous to have flashy jewelry and accessories. Just leave them at home to be on the safe side. Also, follow home robberies are now a nasty trend, just another reason not to sport anything too flashy.
2. Place your belongings in your carry-on or jacket
Always put your valuables and everything else like your wallet, phone and keys in your carry-on bag, making it more difficult for thieves to grab.
3. Push your bags through the machine
Always push your belongings through the x-ray machine. If there’s a long line of bags but no line at the metal detector, wait until your bags are in the machine.
4. Never take your eyes off of your belongings
I once had a TSA agent 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.”
5. Label your belongings
Always label your phone, laptop and bag, with your name and 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.
6. Wear a Scottevest
When I’m traveling during cold months, I wear a Scottevest jacket, which acts as a third carry-on, has 20+ pockets, including secret ones. 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. Full disclosure: Scottevest is a former sponsor but I still recommend their products because I truly love them. You can check out Scottevest products here and on Amazon.
My vigilance doesn’t stop at security – especially on long flights where there have been an uptick in in-flight thefts. Here’s how I protect my bags/valuables on planes.
This story reminded me of a recent trip in which the TSA agent gave me a hard time. I was waiting for my bag to go on the conveyor belt before I stepped through the metal detector. She barked at me as though I were doing something bad. I explained why I was waiting, but she acted like I was a bad person.