Q: Hi, Peter. My good buddy was just telling me about how he had his carry-on bag swiped while he was using the men's room at the airport. He left the bag in the corner while he went about his business. When he came back, it was gone. I mean, come on ... what are you supposed to do? I often do the same thing, but thankfully, I've never had my bag stolen.
–Gregory, Rock Hill, S.C.
A: Gregory, the men's room is home to a sacred, unspoken etiquette, but when valuables are involved, don't take any chances. Here's what I suggest: If you're traveling with someone you know, ask them to look after your bag for you while you make a trip to the restroom. If you're by yourself and you have no choice but to bring your bag with you into the bathroom, take the bag with you into the stall. or hang it on the coat rack when you close the door. ... It's really as simple as that.
Your friend's story was surprising because most airport crimes you hear about occur outside of the men's and women's rooms. Pickpocketing and theft are common crimes and often, you may not know until much too late that you've become a victim. Airport crooks usually work in pairs, with one person creating a diversion to take your focus away from your things while the other quickly swipes them.
The key is to always stay in physical contact with your belongings at all times, especially in vulnerable places like phone booths or long lines. Keep one foot resting on your bags as you sit at your departure gate, in case you doze off. Also, don't put your home address on the ID tags of your bags. A phone number is enough — or at most an office address.
Some airport criminals have no intention of stealing your bags at the airport. They are after a bigger prize: your house. They want you to go out of town! In fact, many home burglaries are initiated as airport crimes.
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