There’s no worse way to start a trip than waiting at the baggage carousel for luggage that never arrives. Your bags were probably misplaced by the airline and will be returned to you shortly, but there’s always a chance they were stolen by luggage thieves.
Earlier this month, Houston police arrested two people caught stealing luggage from baggage claim at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). The pair admitted they had been snagging unattended bags for several months and would sell anything inside that was valuable and keep the clothes. In Palm Beach, a burglar pried open the door of a van and stole several pieces of luggage that contained valuables and three passports.
Luggage theft can occur anywhere luggage is left unattended, such as the baggage carousel, airport bathroom, hotel lobby, street curb, and more. Follow these tips to help prevent your bags from being stolen.
1. Don’t check your bags. Try to pack everything you need for your trip into a carry-on bag that you’ll keep in your possession at all times.
2. Hold onto your valuables. If you must check a bag, keep expensive and irreplaceable items such as jewelry, electronics, and important documents in a carry-on or personal bag you’ll bring onboard with you. Pack clothing and other items that can be easily replaced in your checked luggage.
3. Don’t dilly-dally. Once your flight lands, make your way to the luggage carousel immediately. Don’t stop to eat or shop in the airport terminal. Police say the Houston thieves took advantage of the time it took travelers to make their way from the plane to baggage claim.
4. Skip designer bags. Thieves assume that expensive bags made by luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton contain valuable items inside.
5. Stand out. Buy luggage that is brightly colored or unusual and stands out in the sea of plain black bags. Law enforcement officials say luggage thieves often go for common bags that won’t draw attention to them.
6. Lock ’em up. Lock your bags with TSA-approved locks or luggage straps that can only be opened by you or a TSA agent. Locks can be broken or opened with TSA master keys found on the Internet, but they may deter thieves who are looking for easy access.
7. Write your name inside. Place your name and contact information inside your suitcase, not just on tags attached to the exterior handles. Luggage thieves quickly remove tags at the airport to avoid being caught with someone else’s luggage, but police and airport personnel can check inside the bags if something looks suspicious.
8. Track your luggage. Consider buying a smart bag or luggage tracking device such as LugLoc that slips inside your old suitcase. Smart bags and tracking devices use GPS technology to update your smartphone of your bag’s location, and some contain proximity alarms that alert you if the bag leaves your side.
9. File a police report. If your bags go missing and the airline can’t locate them within a couple of days, file a police report. Once a crime is reported, police can review airport surveillance video and look for the people who took your luggage.
10. Make a list. Keep an inventory of everything you pack inside your bags. This can be easily done using a packing app. You may be able to get compensated for your stolen bags from the airlines, but you’ll need to provide a detailed list of items stolen and likely receipts or credit card statements to prove their value.