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31/07/09 – How Can A Baggage Tag Can Make You The Target Of A Thief ? Find Out!
I have covered this topic previously on Flying With Fish, however it’s been more than a year-and-a-half since I wrote about it. With the peak summer travel season going strong I thought it was time to revisit this topic.
A new luggage tag arrives for your bag, naturally you place your home phone number and home address on it. This information will get your bag back to you if your luggage is separated from you…this information also gives alert airport thieves a lot of detailed information about you while you’re away from home.
While I am waiting in-line, sitting in the lounge or standing around the baggage carousel at the airport, I have a habit of reading people’s baggage tags. Two things usually catch my eye. These two things are the information people put on their luggage tags and the information people leave off of their tags.
When you are traveling the following is the most important information you should have on your tag
– Your name, preferably how it appears on your airline tickets
– Your direct contact phone number
– Your destination contact phone number if you are traveling somewhere your mobile phone will not be “roaming” with you
– Your e-mail address
Your contact phone number is very important. In this day-and-age, we all have mobile phones. Chances are your mobile phone follows you, this means that if you are flying from Los Angeles to Marrakesh and somewhere along the way your bag is delayed the airline can call you and let you know what it has arrived.
If you are traveling somewhere that your mobile phone may not work, such as Japan, (that’s right you CDMA and TDMA users you’re phone won’t work in 98% of the countries you’ll travel around the world), you need an alternate form of contact information. List the phone number of your hotel or your business contact so the airline can contact you while you are in an area potentially inaccessible to your mobile phone.
When you are filling out your baggage tag the following information should NOT be placed on your baggage tag
– Your home address
– Your home “landline” phone number
The majority of travellers assume that their home address and phone number should be on their bags. The problem with this is two fold.
The first primary problem with your home phone number and home address is that you won’t be home for the airline to call you should you become separated from your luggage.
The second problem with listing your home phone number and home address is this information exposes you to experienced thieves loitering in many airports reading luggage tags!
When you have your home address publicly available on your baggage tag you are announcing to these seasoned criminals that you are not home! It happens more than you would think.
Why no home “landline” phone number? These phone numbers tend to lead back to a listing of your physical home address which can be easily searchable online.
A while back I sat in the United Airlines Red Carpet Club at New York’s JFK Airport to test my theory and using www.whitepages.com/reverse-lookup. Using the first bag someone placed next to me I searched the phone number on the bags to see what I could find out. What a shock, I immediately knew the home address of the guy next to me, as well as his wife’s name. Now I have no intention of breaking into anyone’s home, but by casual observation and listening I knew how easily the couple that owned the bags could become the targets of airport thieves. In the span of a few minutes I not only had the first & last names of the couple, but I knew they lived off of 188th Street in Queens, New York, a very nice upscale neighbourhood. I also knew the home would be unattended by listening to their conversation and they’d be out of town at least a day as they boarded United Flight 891 from JFK to Los Angeles’ LAX.
A theft ring I learned about by corresponding with airport thieves happens at common holiday destinations, such as the baggage carousels at Miami (MIA), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Palm Beach (PBI) and Orlando (MCO). A spotter looks for entire families standing around waiting for their luggage. The spotters look for certain signs of a ‘worthy target.’ Once they have their targets they pull a bag ‘by accident,’ read the luggage tag, apologize for grabbing the wrong bag, then call an accomplice in the metro New York area to go and steal from the homes of their targets.
Do you want someone knowing this much information about you, just by reading your phone number in an instant while you standing in the airport?
So…………..when getting your new luggage tags, remember to give useful information and NOT too much information!