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The Wall Street Journal carried a piece about the theft of valuables from luggage and the luggage itself at airports. An increase seen in the last five years is being blamed on the bad economy and reduced security caused by cost-cutting measures. Airlines are not liable for the thefts under existing rules.

A spokesman for the Portland, Ore., airport said baggage thefts are up about 50 percent this year and a prosecutor in the Queens County, N.Y., district attorney’s office said “There’s been a tremendous increase in the last five years. It’s pretty bad—a lot is getting stolen every day.”

Laptop computers, iPods and electronic game systems are among the most popular items with thieves.

“Carousel thieves” – outsiders who simply steal other peoples’ baggage and walk out of the airport with it – are one threat. The other is theft by employees who take valuables from luggage, sometimes to sell on eBay. The insiders often switch routing tags to reroute the victim’s bags and confuse investigators.

Tips for avoiding losses:

— Don’t put valuables like jewelry or electronics equipment in luggage. Small items are the highest risk.

— If you can’t take valuables in carry-on luggage, ship them. You can insure items with shipping companies.

— Luggage locks are no protection. They’re easily opened.

— Report thefts immediately to the airline you’re flying on and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

— Put colorful tape or ribbons on your luggage to make it easily visible.

— For those who travel a lot with laptops: be sure valuable information is encrypted. Although most thefts are simply for the equipment, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that thieves could try to exploit the contents of your hard drive if they can figure out a way to make money.

Story here.

Tom Kelchner

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