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TSA searched my bag with credit card and laptop inside. Should I be concerned?

TSA searched my bag with credit card and laptop inside. Should I be concerned?

Old Jun 21, 22, 11:22 am
  #1  
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TSA searched my bag with credit card and laptop inside. Should I be concerned?

I knew something was wrong when I picked up my bag and saw a zip tie used to secure the zippers in my suitcase. I didn't have time to check what was wrong at the airport. When I got home, it wasn't obvious that my bag was searched as I was in a hurry and my bag was a mess before I even boarded my flight. Then when I opened my laptop, there was a TSA notice in between the screen and keyboard. It's an interesting spot to place the TSA notice. I wonder if my laptop had its data downloaded? My laptop is password protected, but since they have all the tools in the world to decrypt these days, I'm assuming a copy of my laptop's data is stored now? A couple of my credit cards were also inside my suitcase. Given TSA's reputation in the past for stolen items, should I be concerned? I don't have the best memory in the world and since I was in a hurry to pack my bag in the hotel, it's not apparent that something is missing yet. I haven't seen any fraudulent charges on my credit cards yet. I also had a spare sim card inside my suitcase. Anyways, should I be concerned at all or I can "trust" that TSA actually did its job properly, followed its own guidelines, and didn't violate any of my rights? There's nothing I can do about the laptop now. I'm trying to convince myself that TSA doesn't have any of my laptop data. Maybe it's paranoia. Should I replace my credit cards and obtain different card numbers just in case? I know I can always report my cards as "stolen" and then get new card numbers reissued.
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Old Jun 21, 22, 11:27 am
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first off, please dont pack your laptop in your checked bag - the batteries could catch fire in the cargo hold and that would be bad news all around.
I wouldnt pack my credit cards in the checked in luggage either, simply cause checked bags often get lost and I wouldn't want anything valuable to be in them.

All that aside, I dont think you need to be too worried. the run of the mill TSA agent has neither ability, nor motivation or time to download laptop data or copy credit cards
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Old Jun 21, 22, 11:29 am
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One possibility is that they placed the note in the laptop so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle, but I could be wrong. They usually leave it on the top of the inside of the suitcase. For the credit cards, I would put alerts through the bank to notify you of any purchases, or put amount limits for any charges. Or, if you credit limit is high and you don't check the bank app frequently, maybe replace them for peace of mind.
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Old Jun 21, 22, 11:33 am
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Originally Posted by flsusi View Post
first off, please dont pack your laptop in your checked bag - the batteries could catch fire in the cargo hold and that would be bad news all around.
I wouldnt pack my credit cards in the checked in luggage either, simply cause checked bags often get lost and I wouldn't want anything valuable to be in them.

All that aside, I dont think you need to be too worried. the run of the mill TSA agent has neither ability, nor motivation or time to download laptop data or copy credit cards
Ever since they made us take out our laptops for inspection, I pretty much stopped traveling with my laptop as I don't want to be slowed down at security. I find that my smartphones can do pretty much everything that I need to do. When I need to type something long, I have a Bluetooth keyboard for that purpose. The reason why I brought my laptop with me was because I intend to use it to do the tele-COVID test. This was before the mandatory COVID test was eliminated. I didn't want to take it out for security so I threw it inside my suitcase. I guess that may have been the reason for my bag being checked?

Has there been reforms after all of those stories of TSA agents stealing? Are there cameras recording their inspections?

Maybe I'll avoid the hassle of replacing my credit cards then. I think I feel better after reading your post.

Last edited by TWA884; Jun 21, 22 at 4:30 pm Reason: Please keep politics out of the TS/S forums.
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Old Jun 21, 22, 12:25 pm
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Originally Posted by sau54 View Post
Ever since they made us take out our laptops for inspection, I pretty much stopped traveling with my laptop as I don't want to be slowed down at security. I find that my smartphones can do pretty much everything that I need to do. When I need to type something long, I have a Bluetooth keyboard for that purpose. The reason why I brought my laptop with me was because I intend to use it to do the tele-COVID test. This was before the mandatory COVID test was eliminated. I didn't want to take it out for security so I threw it inside my suitcase. I guess that may have been the reason for my bag being checked?

Has there been reforms after all of those stories of TSA agents stealing? Are there cameras recording their inspections?

Maybe I'll avoid the hassle of replacing my credit cards then. I think I feel better after reading your post.
Similar to as within the PSCs, yes, the baggage inspection locations behind the scenes have video taken many cameras from many angles which is kept for up to 30 days. It is how theft is discouraged - if someone makes a complaint they can paraphrase Warner Wolfe and "go to the video tape." Using the barcodes on the bag and timestamps as it travels through the system, individual bags can be identified quickly as to which belt, station, time and which inspector checked the bag. They can then "follow" the inspector after the event to see if s/he took any items to a locker or other area. It's not much different than a bank or casino video operation. More than a few TSA "officers" have been caught this way.

Last edited by TWA884; Jun 21, 22 at 4:32 pm Reason: Conform to moderator's edit of quoted post
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Old Jun 21, 22, 8:20 pm
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Originally Posted by sau54 View Post
The reason why I brought my laptop with me was because I intend to use it to do the tele-COVID test. This was before the mandatory COVID test was eliminated. I didn't want to take it out for security so I threw it inside my suitcase.
Do realize that if your laptop is damaged there is no recourse as the airline will not accept any responsibility.
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Old Jun 21, 22, 9:24 pm
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Originally Posted by sau54 View Post
The reason why I brought my laptop with me was because I intend to use it to do the tele-COVID test. This was before the mandatory COVID test was eliminated. I didn't want to take it out for security so I threw it inside my suitcase. I guess that may have been the reason for my bag being checked?
I suspect your laptop drew their interest--you're lucky they even allowed it to fly. There are very good reasons for the rule against checking lithium-ion batteries! They have killed a jetliner, fortunately not one with passengers. Baggage handling also can be rough for something like a laptop, not to mention that you'll get $0 compensation if it wanders off--airlines specifically disclaim any responsibility for that sort of stuff in checked baggage.

Lithium-ion cells can decide to fail spectacularly. Usually it's during charging but on occasion it's happened with no obvious trigger. As the cells age they can develop a fault that causes them to discharge through themselves--the internal resistance is low so this gets very hot and the heat accelerates things even further. If that happens in the passenger compartment people will see it and while the fire itself is almost impossible to extinguish it can be kept from spreading. Nobody will be containing it in the baggage compartment.
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Old Jun 21, 22, 9:42 pm
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They probably checked the laptop/turned it on to make sure it was not an explosive device, how they sometimes ask you to do at the carry on screening...Which explains why the inspection notice was in the laptop. To tell you that this was the concern that was checked.
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Old Jun 22, 22, 12:31 am
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They may have removed the laptop during the course of the checked bag inspection, opened it up to ETD swab it and then put the inspection note there. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve noticed that done. Why they wouldn’t just swab the laptop while it’s closed? Maybe they could have but just wanted to do two things at once because it’s easier for the TSA checked bag inspector doing the check after a flag following the findings from the read of the primary bag screening machine scan of the bag.

On most international trips — even domestic portions of international travel plans by air on separate tickets — the airlines remain liable for any damage or loss/theft of electronics in US-checked luggage accepted for check-in by the airlines. This is because Warsaw and Montreal conventions’ protections are superior to airline contract of carriage-based claims of exclusion of liability coverage. More on this: https://whoswholegal.com/features/us...ct-of-baggage1

Last edited by GUWonder; Jun 22, 22 at 12:43 am
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Old Jun 22, 22, 9:36 am
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Originally Posted by Section 107 View Post
Similar to as within the PSCs, yes, the baggage inspection locations behind the scenes have video taken many cameras from many angles which is kept for up to 30 days. It is how theft is discouraged - if someone makes a complaint they can paraphrase Warner Wolfe and "go to the video tape." Using the barcodes on the bag and timestamps as it travels through the system, individual bags can be identified quickly as to which belt, station, time and which inspector checked the bag. They can then "follow" the inspector after the event to see if s/he took any items to a locker or other area. It's not much different than a bank or casino video operation. More than a few TSA "officers" have been caught this way.
PSCs?

Originally Posted by FlyingUnderTheRadar View Post
Do realize that if your laptop is damaged there is no recourse as the airline will not accept any responsibility.
Originally Posted by Loren Pechtel View Post
I suspect your laptop drew their interest--you're lucky they even allowed it to fly. There are very good reasons for the rule against checking lithium-ion batteries! They have killed a jetliner, fortunately not one with passengers. Baggage handling also can be rough for something like a laptop, not to mention that you'll get $0 compensation if it wanders off--airlines specifically disclaim any responsibility for that sort of stuff in checked baggage.

Lithium-ion cells can decide to fail spectacularly. Usually it's during charging but on occasion it's happened with no obvious trigger. As the cells age they can develop a fault that causes them to discharge through themselves--the internal resistance is low so this gets very hot and the heat accelerates things even further. If that happens in the passenger compartment people will see it and while the fire itself is almost impossible to extinguish it can be kept from spreading. Nobody will be containing it in the baggage compartment.
Originally Posted by nk15 View Post
They probably checked the laptop/turned it on to make sure it was not an explosive device, how they sometimes ask you to do at the carry on screening...Which explains why the inspection notice was in the laptop. To tell you that this was the concern that was checked.
Originally Posted by GUWonder View Post
They may have removed the laptop during the course of the checked bag inspection, opened it up to ETD swab it and then put the inspection note there. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve noticed that done. Why they wouldn’t just swab the laptop while it’s closed? Maybe they could have but just wanted to do two things at once because it’s easier for the TSA checked bag inspector doing the check after a flag following the findings from the read of the primary bag screening machine scan of the bag.

On most international trips — even domestic portions of international travel plans by air on separate tickets — the airlines remain liable for any damage or loss/theft of electronics in US-checked luggage accepted for check-in by the airlines. This is because Warsaw and Montreal conventions’ protections are superior to airline contract of carriage-based claims of exclusion of liability coverage. More on this: https://whoswholegal.com/features/us...ct-of-baggage1
So are laptops and iPads banned from checked luggage? Pre-COVID, I did place my iPad in checked luggage all the time and I don't remember TSA searching my bag at all. Now, I mainly travel with my three cellphones with the biggest being my iPhone 13 Pro Max as it's good enough for my travel needs. I'm trying to bring as less as possible to minimize my time at security. I know there's always the chance that my carry-on can be flagged for a swab, which seems pretty inconsistent. Based on my experience, I found that I have been swabbed more often at LHR, CDG, YYZ, and JFK. I haven't had that done at any other airports.

Should I avoid putting a DSLR in a camera bag in my checked luggage as well?
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Old Jun 22, 22, 10:16 am
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Originally Posted by sau54 View Post

PSCs?

Should I avoid putting a DSLR in a camera bag in my checked luggage as well?
PSC = passenger screening checkpoint

re: putting a camera in checked baggage: I believe most of us, and the airlines, recommend not putting anything in checked baggage that you do not want to lose. Not just because some TSA "officers" have had (and some still do have) sticky fingers, but because bags are subject to a variety of other people having access to them...especially if/when the bag gets misdirected.

Last edited by Section 107; Jun 22, 22 at 12:23 pm Reason: fixed coding so response is more visible
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Old Jun 22, 22, 10:31 am
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The laptop in the checked luggage has likely three concerns, (a) the battery risk, (b) needs to be scanned for explosives, and (c) risk of theft/damage/loss of private information. So I wouldn't pack it there anymore, is my suggestion.
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Old Jun 22, 22, 10:33 am
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Originally Posted by nk15 View Post
The laptop in the checked luggage has likely three concerns, (a) the battery risk, (b) needs to be scanned for explosives, and (c) risk of theft/damage/loss of private information. So I wouldn't pack it there anymore, is my suggestion.
I'll avoid bringing my laptop if I don't have to going forward.
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Old Jun 22, 22, 8:52 pm
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Originally Posted by sau54 View Post
Should I avoid putting a DSLR in a camera bag in my checked luggage as well?
It's not a good idea from a standpoint of theft and damage, but it's only the batteries that are prohibited.

And I could picture problems like the idiot at security back in the 90s who thought my camera was fake because she couldn't see anything through it. Well, duh, a SLR without a lens attached isn't going to produce an image!
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Old Jun 22, 22, 11:21 pm
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Originally Posted by sau54 View Post
Should I avoid putting a DSLR in a camera bag in my checked luggage as well?
Yes. Basically the airlines will not take responsibility for most everything in checked luggage unless the item or whole bag is missing. And if missing many exclusions.
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