You’ve probably heard the statistic:  over 10,000 laptops are stolen each week at TSA checkpoints, according to a survey by the Ponemon Institute.  After getting whacked by airlines for fees for everything imaginable, this would be the ultimate air travel insult:  have your stuff swiped at the security checkpoint.

But it needn’t happen to you.  Keeping your stuff safe and secure isn’t all that difficult; just follow these simple steps:

  • A forehead slapper, but:  make sure you do everything possible so you don’t set off the metal detector! That simple fact will dramatically reduce the odds of your having anything stolen
  • As you approach the TSA checkpoint, stow your cell phone, wristwatch, (or any other item which will trigger the metal detector), in a pocket in one of your bags
  • Speaking of laptops, do everything you can to NOT put it in one of those gray plastic bins:  use “butterfly”-style TSA compliant bag like the Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer or the CODi laptop backpack recently reviewed here.  Why take chances??  But if you must pull your laptop out…
  • when putting your bags on the magnetometer’s belt, use a “bookends” approach:  carry-on bag at the front, shoes & 3-1-1 bag next, valuable stuff (read: laptop) next, personal item/bag at the end
  • This way, if you somehow set off the metal detector, your laptop will be toward the end of your stuff, yet will be separated from the items belonging to the next person in line
  • If you do set off the metal detector, follow the instructions of the TSA agent, but stay focused on your items.  If you have any concerns about their security, politely but firmly ask the TSA agent to secure them for you
  • Finally, a word about iPads and netbooks:  NEVER remove them from your bag at the checkpoint. TSA rules allow them to stay in your carry-on bags.  If the agent manning the magnetometer needs to review them, he/she will ask to send them through the machine separately.  At that point you should be standing near the magnetometer’s exit, so no worries

Follow these simple rules when navigating the TSA checkpoint, and your stuff should be reasonably safe and secure.

How about you?  Do you have any tactics for getting through checkpoints quickly – and with all your stuff?  If yes, please share by commenting.

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9 Comments on Screw the TSA checkpoint larcenists: keep your stuff safe!

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alltop Lifehacks, The Lifehack Ninja. The Lifehack Ninja said: Screw the TSA checkpoint larcenists: keep your stuff safe! http://bit.ly/cAAQ0F [...]

  2. Buzz says:

    If I have more than one bag, I use a retractable cable lock to secure the two together. This way, if someone grabs one bag, they have to take both. Not as easy to grab and run.

    Or, if I can, I put my smaller bag inside my bigger bag. This way, if they want to look inside, I’m standing right there.

    As far as my “pocket” items go, I have a small see-through pouch in which I put them before I get into the security line–watch, wallet, cell phones, keys, change, etc. They are all in one place and easily found. This pouch stays inside my bag. If also allows TSA to inspect the items without having to paw all over them.

    Never stack anything electronic on top of each other. This confuses the people watching the TV screen. Make whatever is they’re looking at nice and easy to see.

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  3. J says:

    That is an awful lot of stuff to send through the xray machine for your bookends approach.

    I stick my 3-1-1 bag in the same bin as my laptop. My shoes may also even go in that same bin. This reduces the, “Oh, there goes a laptop,” appeal of my laptop. And as we all know, your stuff just has to look less desirable than the next guy’s, or at least less easy to get.

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  4. Adriano says:

    Netbooks inside carry-on bags? Mmm… My experience here in ole Europe, is a mixed one -i.e. I had sometimes to remove my laptop (recently in Warsaw), and sometimes I could leave it in the bag (such as in Gothemburg).
    Strange things happen at checkpoints. I have been traveling with this (a razor blade) in my hand luggage without much hassle and then I had it confiscated in an Italian airport (later though I went through the very same airport and nothing happened).
    I even could take off with a open contact lens liquid bottle which exceeded the 3-1-1 rule – and even managed to get through security with a full water bottle.
    So, I would say that security checks are not 100% secure…

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  5. janetplanet says:

    Wow, I bet the tsa goons are making a killing selling off stolen laptops, since they are too stupid to use them.

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    Kevin Reply:

    I suspect other passengers are to blame.

    [Reply]

  6. [...] not afraid of the screening; I’m afraid of being ripped off. Turns out my fears are founded. This post on the site PracticalHacks.com says that 10,000 laptops are stolen each week at security. [...]

  7. Anon says:

    Travel light. If you have a wallet, spare change, keys, phone, etc., bring a plastic zip-lock bag with you, stuff them all into a baggie and then into the front zipper compartment of your carry-on. Then flip your carry-on upside-down on the scanner. The only thing going through the scanner is your bag, and maybe a coat and a hat.
    Carry your passport and ticket with you through the scanner. That won’t set off the scanner.

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  8. Michael W. says:

    The new “step into my cylinder” full body scanners essentially require EVERYTHING OFF including belt, handkerchief out of pocket, PASSPORT and WALLET (even completely non-metallic!) in the security tray ….

    And TSA STILL DOESN’T use a “claim card” system like they do in Asia.

    WE ARE SCREWED if someone walks off with our checked item containing our wallet, credit cards, passport, etc.

    So think carefully about taking out your valuables and putting them in your carry-through bag BEFORE you are in line, so any ill-doers don’t know which bag to grab. And if you have more than one carry on item, distribute your papers/credit cards/etc. between the two bags.

    UGH.

    [Reply]

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