4 Ways to Protect Your Stuff at Airport Security

Andy King/AP Photo

A 95-year-old retired Air Force veteran claimed the TSA stole $300 from him when  he was patted down in another room in March  during an airport security screening in  San Diego. In February, a woman's $6,500 watch was stolen by another passenger in Fort Lauderdale security line.  That theft was  caught on tape.  Also in February, a TSA agent stole $5,000 in cash from a passenger's jacket at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

What's a traveler to do? Start packing valuables in checked luggage? Absolutely not. Keeping your valuables on your person or in your carry-on bags is still the safest bet.

Here are four  tips to help keep your belongings safe as you pass through airport security checkpoints, whether you're tapped for a secondary screening or just passing through the security line.

Don't put cash in a bin. 

If you need to remove your money clip because it's going to set off the metal detector, take the money out and put the cash back in your pocket before putting the money clip in the bin. Don't carry large amounts of cash with you through the airport or while traveling at all  if you can help it. And if you want to be extra cautious, people who keep their wallet in a purse or bag or jacket that's going down the conveyor belt should take the cash out and keep it on their person.

Don't go though the metal detector or scanner before your bags. 

Don't leave your bags behind while you sail through security. If there's an opening at the metal detector or scanner but a backup on the bag conveyor belt, it is perfectly acceptable to wait for your bags and bins to get into the screener before proceeding through yourself.

Keep your bags in sight at all times. 

It's possible you'll need to pass through the metal detector or scanner more than once. It's also possible you'll be chosen for a pat down or additional screening. In any case, cooperate with the TSA but keep your bags in your line of site. Again, simply appearing aware of your belongings will scare off most potential thieves. If you are taken to another area or separate room for screening, insist that your bags come with you.

Know exactly what you came with. 

Keep a mental note of how many bins you used and what you put inside each. Theft often happens when someone forgets an item - like a laptop - and walks away from security toward the gate. In the time it takes to realize what you left behind, it may be gone.