Travel Tips Tuesday: Keeping Your Items Secure During Screening (and What to Do if Something Goes Missing)

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Lost and Found image

Every day, throughout the country, for a variety of reasons, passengers leave something behind at security checkpoints. You’d be surprised to see what TSA sends to the airport lost and found if officers can’t reunite the item with the passenger before they leave. Sometimes passengers leave items in the bowls available for watches or keys, sometimes they forget a small bag because they’re distracted or in a rush, and regrettably, sometimes an item out in plain sight becomes too attractive to others in the vicinity of the checkpoint.

Today’s travel tips are designed to ensure that everything you bring through the checkpoint leaves the checkpoint with you. And if something goes missing, we’ll do our best to the extent we can, to help you figure out how to get it back.

Keep valuables in your bag, not the bowl. One of the tips I share with family and friends most often is to put your wallet, phone, watch, jewelry or other small items in your carry-on bag while you’re in line or when you’re loading items into the bins. The bowls provided at checkpoints are great for loose change or a pack of gum left in your pocket, but don’t put valuables in them. When the X-ray belt gets really packed, these bowls can be overlooked or forgotten. Expensive items in open bowls may prove tempting to other passengers. While not a regular occurrence, just last week, two passengers were caught stealing items from other passengers at two different airports.

Less bling, less risk. Sometimes jewelry ends up in a bowl because it’s too bulky to be worn during screening or because the passenger assumes the jewelry has to be removed and takes it off at the last minute. Pack any jewelry you think might have to come off for security in your carry-on bag and put it on after you go through security.

Report stolen items immediately. As soon as you know a bag or item is missing, notify a TSA officer or airport law enforcement officer immediately. TSA can often work with the airport and local law enforcement to review closed-circuit television footage, identify who may have taken the item and reunite the passenger with their item. Sometimes someone grabs the wrong bag by accident, but anyone caught stealing items will be arrested.

Listen for airport announcements. When possible, some airports can make announcements to let passengers know an item was left behind at the checkpoint. You never know when the missing item may be yours, so if you hear the announcement, it’s a good idea to check to make sure you have everything. It’s much easier to get your item before you depart than after you have landed at your destination.

Contact Lost and Found. If you realize, after you get to your destination, that you left something behind at the security checkpoint, visit the lost and found contacts page on for phone numbers at every airport. Be ready to provide a description of the item and the day and approximate time it was left behind. If your item is found, TSA will work with you to either pick the item up if you’re returning to the airport or mail it to you, at your expense.

TSA Blog Team

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