Why You Should Always Keep Your Eyes on Your Bags When Going Through The Security Checkpoint

Whenever I go through a security checkpoint, I keep my eye on my bags. If I am singled out for additional screening, I insist that my bags remain in view while waiting for a TSA employee to turn up.
These waits are the time you’re most likely to be separated from your belongings.

This insistence usually gets a response, in fact it usually limits the time I have to wait for someone to come do the additional screening. And at a minimum declaring that I’m watching closely may serve as a deterrent to theft.

A TSA screener was arrested on Thursday for allegedly stealing cash from a passenger.

While she was patted down, Duddleston told TSA security officer Michelle Metz that she couldn’t see her luggage, so Metz moved her closer.

Duddleston complained again that she couldn’t see her bag, and Johnson moved slightly.

After the pat-down, Duddleston reached for her bag and could not find her money, police said.

She said she noticed a bulge in Johnson’s left front shirt pocket.

Surveillance video showed the screener reaching into the the passenger’s bag, taking money, and putting it into his pocket.

However video doesn’t usually protect us.

  • Theft by TSA has been a recurring event for years

  • Video isn’t always available, in fact screeners have worked together to make sure their colleagues know when the video is down.

Stealing cash isn’t new. Sometimes they just take cash from passengers they don’t like. The TSA screener who stole a passener’s watch at JFK. Another who turned out to have taken $50,000 worth of items slipped an iPad in their pants.

One TSA screener who admits stealing $800,000 of passenger items explains that workers collaborate, letting each other know when surveillance cameras aren’t working.

Orlando was where a news station tracked down a missing iPad at a TSA agent’s house. The TSA employee blamed his wife.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The TSA is a cabal of foxes hired to violate and steal valuables from the hens they screen.

  2. Honestly, while I consider the TSA to be largely Security Theater, I don’t think they are crooks. Sure, in any organization there are a few bad apples, but this isn’t something any normal person has to worry about. Like you’re probably more likely to be pickpocketed at the supermarket, and I doubt you worry about that.

  3. Iahphx
    I agree. While keeping an eye on your bags is commons sense, your belongings are more likely to be stolen by another passenger. TSA is is horribly inconsistent and largely inefficient but having a few bad apples is true of any group.

  4. A big thank you for continuing to post this information.
    This is a tremendous service to us frequent flyers, protecting our rights, and helping to prevent us from getting ripped off.

  5. Honestly the screeners who get caught stealing should get max prison sentences. Its absurd that this is happening in the US to begin with and ot says a lot about the screening process that these types of people were even hired.

  6. Surprised that Gary didn’t mention this is a good reason to signup for Pre-check. By using precheck you avoid 2 critical weaknesses: No need to empty your pockets and remove your wallet (assuming no metal) and no need to remove electronic devices and leave them exposed. Also no need to remove belt and shoes (putting them on may distract you on the other side). I never activate the WMD machine alarm so usually I am there to meet my bags. The only exception are the supposedly random TMD alarms that require a secondary screening. But even then your valuables are still in your bag.

  7. Yep, nearly “lost” my MacBook Pro at LAX checkpoint. When I made a fuss it was “found” in lost items at back.
    I was undergoing extra screening and could not see the Thule case with my MacBook.

  8. As they say, the phrase isn’t actually “It’s just a few bad apples.” Rather, it’s “a few bad apples spoils the bunch.”

  9. “I insist that my bags remain in view while waiting for a TSA employee to turn up”

    Gary – can you please share how you frame this to a TSA agent? My polite requests to keep my bags within view always get a response of “There are security cameras everywhere” meaning, deal with it.

  10. Hard to follow…Duddleston …Metz..Johnson…
    Incomplete sentences…
    Lack of Continuity…

    At least in this piece.

  11. This article is for the inept at best. What normal person puts a load of cash in the carry on. At and airport? And what valuables are there to worry about? Anyway, like someone mentioned as there are always a few bad apples but percentage wise that would me a very small thing to worry about. Just use common sense with valuebles and no worry. Even leaving the country cash is deep in my pocket. I don’t have to remove that as it just paper. Any other small amount is in my wallet.

  12. @MM: I am the same. I insist on keeping my bags and laptops in full view. i will never enter the x-ray machine for example, before my bag and laptops have started going through. If a officer tells me to move on before I simply tell them, politely I am waiting until the bag goes through. If there are other people behind me waiting to go through, I step aside and let them through. I don’t trust the poorly paid TSA officers in the United States, i trust them even less i most other countries, especially those pesky Germans. Most of them are from other countries, with responsible, poorly paid positions with exposure to vast amounts of wealth they can easily steal. As for Cairo, what a mess, keep an eagle-eye open there. They are shockers.

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