Q. My husband flew out of Seattle last week. While clearing TSA security, his laptop was stolen. We are still in shock that this could happen. This scam was slick and there's no doubt that TSA employees were involved, or at least complicit. We have now found another person who had the same thing happen to him at the Seattle airport last month. TSA is not being very cooperative. Lots of forms to fill out, but no answers. Is this type of theft common and how can we prevent my husband's new laptop from meeting a similar fate?
A. If you do a web search for "TSA theft" you get some interesting and shocking results. The ABC News 20/20 video you'll find by searching "TSA Officer Tracked at home missing iPad" is especially amusing, if that's the right word. Hundreds of TSA officers have been fired for theft. That said, it's entirely possible that another passenger took the laptop, either intentionally or by mistake. Of course, you should never put a laptop in checked luggage, but even carryon luggage is vulnerable. That's where TSA PreCheck can help. Most laptops are lost or stolen because the device is sent through the scanner long before the owner passes through the scanner to the "airside" of the terminal, so the laptop or iPad sits in its bin while the owner is stuck behind a line of people waiting to be scanned. With TSA PreCheck, you don't have to remove your device from your carryon. You can even lock your carryon, which I strongly suggest everyone should do. I would guess that PreCheck has already cut down on the theft of valuables at TSA checkpoints. If TSA PreCheck lines are not available, I always wait until I'm sure that I will be the next person through the metal detector and then and only then do I send my laptop or iPad through the scanner. More on TSA PreCheck here.
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