NEWARK, N.J.—A wallet containing more than $5,000 cash, a few credit cards but no identification was left behind at a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday morning, Dec. 11. Once the wallet was delivered to TSA’s Lost and Found Office, it only took 45 minutes to track down its owner. Actually, TSA contacted the passenger before he even realized that his wallet was missing.
The passenger, a resident of Yates County in upstate New York, was flying to the west coast and had to catch a connecting flight in Denver. That’s when he received the call.
Using one of the credit cards in the wallet, TSA Customer Service Manager Ofelia Ruiz, who oversees the Lost and Found Office in Newark, called one of the credit card companies, explained that TSA had the man’s wallet and asked the credit card company to contact the man and have him call TSA as soon as he landed.
When the Penn Yan, New York, resident called the TSA Lost and Found Office, he confirmed that he was without his wallet, described in perfect detail what it looked like and sent a photo of himself to the office.
To ensure that the wallet and its contents will be reunited with the right person, TSA officials will review the closed circuit TV video of the checkpoint to ensure that the man in the photo is the same man who came through the checkpoint. The cash will be converted into money orders and shipped along with the wallet via overnight mail to the destination of the traveler’s choice—at his expense.
“I figured he was going to have a heart attack when he reached for his wallet and it wasn’t there. I knew I had to act fast,” Ruiz explained. “He probably took his ID out of his wallet when he came to the checkpoint and didn’t slip it back into his wallet. Travelers should always put their ID right back in their wallets after they show it to the TSA officer. A lot of people actually lose their ID cards at the checkpoint.”
The passenger was so grateful that he offered to give a cash reward to the TSA officer who turned in the wallet, but the reward was declined because TSA officers are not permitted to accept gratuities.
“The return of a wallet with such a large amount of cash goes to the integrity of our TSA officers,” said TSA’s New Jersey Federal Security Director Tom Carter. “We were all quite pleased that we were able to identify the rightful owner so quickly and make arrangements to get his cash and credit cards back to him. I’m sure the owner is thrilled. I know I would be.”
Travelers leave items at airport checkpoints every day. Sometimes the items have little value like pens and earbuds, and sometimes the items are very valuable like wallets, jewelry and laptops. Regardless of what the items are that are left behind, the Transportation Security Administration works to reunite travelers with their lost items. Travelers who think they may have lost something at an airport checkpoint can visit tsa.gov to get the contact information for TSA’s Lost and Found Offices across the country.