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Warning: Theft at Airport

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Just a warning of something to watch out for. We picked up somebody at the airport tonight. I was watching their luggage while the others went to the bathroom and ATM. A guy came up to talk to me, asking if I spoke Spanish. When I turned to respond, some of the luggage fell over. I grabbed for the bags to sit things back upright and saw that the guy was walking away when I turned back. I had an uneasy feeling, and when one of the people got back I explained what happened and asked if all their bags looked OK. She said they did, but upon closer inspection she saw that the backpack wasn't theirs. It looked very similar, but theirs had been stolen and replaced with the other (which contained junk). It's obvious that a team had targeted me, seeing that I was left with a large amount of luggage which I wasn't familiar with. While the one guy distracted me, somebody else swapped the backpack and headed out a nearby door. By the time we figured out what happened and went to look for security, the people were long gone.

Lost along with the backpack: A 2-week old iPad received as a gift, a laptop computer with lots of family photos and personal information (including passwords stored in the browser, etc), several books, and a personal planner with loads of info. Fortunately, they had purses, wallets, passports, and personal documents with them and not in the stolen bag.

Security checked footage from their cameras and confirmed what happened. We have a contact to get in touch with for a report, but there were no cameras in the parking garage where they fled to. So we're left sitting up tonight with our guests, going through logging into various online accounts to change passwords, cancel credit cards, and figure out what might have been affected and who to contact. What a horrible way to start their vacation here in Mexico!!

Lessons learned to help others avoid this...

1. Don't leave one person guarding a bunch of luggage, especially stuff belonging to somebody else. If one or more people are watching bags, be sure they know what bag(s) are most valuable so they can keep them close.

2. Don't have a bunch of luggage sitting near one of the exit doors, where somebody can take something and be gone quickly.

3. If you're watching luggage and somebody strikes up a converstation, RED FLAG alert to pay closer attention to your stuff and the people near you.

4. When packing, don't keep all your valuable electronics in one bag that would be easy to grab and run with.

5. Make sure you have a recent, full backup of any data on devices you're traveling with, in case they get lost or stolen.

6. Make a list of contact numbers, info and accounts you should contact in case your property is stolen. Keep the list someplace in your luggage, away from electronic devices, credit cards, and other documents that might be stolen. It's very difficult to remember them when you don't have your computer, tablet, or documents for reference.

Maybe others here might have recommendations and safety tips to help prevent something like this from happening. In the meantime, be aware of the specific danger from teams like this operating at the airport here.

Heather

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That is why there is a restroom before you enter customs and before you pick up your luggage.

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I would report this to the MP and ask if there are any cameras showing these guys, I bet they are regulars at the airport and it would help if someone pushed the MP to find these guys and or alert the airport security. Meanwhile we all need to be careful as these people are pros and they sure know how to get to unsuspecting victims. Sorry about that bad experience..

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It might be helpful to carry a piece of light cord like paracord. If the luggage is to be left standing more than a few moments, slip it through the straps and handles and tie a knot, or hold the ends of the cord. It will make taking one piece much more difficult and you will no longer be the lowest piece of fruit!

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I found it fascinating how professional these thiefs are. They knew which bag to take and replace it with a similar one so the owners did not notice at the first glance..

Seems like you can never be careful enough. They are so bold. What a sad way to start Christmas holiday.Sorry.

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I find it amazing that they just happened to have a similar backpack..makes you wonder if they have a bunch of luggage somewhere they can match...a little strange no? They must have a place to store them so they must have help from someone at the airport. or they were just lucky but I bet luck had little to do with it. .

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Unfortunately lots of these backpacks and carryons look alike and if they are group of them everyone of them can carry one and not be suspicious. :010:

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I still would love to see a tape of these guys operating and I bet you there is one somewhere iat the airport.

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Last time I was at gld airport in departure area, a lady employee asked to fill a questionare vervally.....while I said yes no, etc......finally she asked if.there is anything that needs to be changed at the airport.......I asked if this was for the director of Gdl airport.....she said yes......I woke up and began to tell her the taxi guys that had robbed passengers when they dropped the at home at night.....and how no one cared and how every ride is logged amd driver info taken....

It happens to tourists and Mexican citizens.......locals know they are tbiefs at Gdl airport waiting for their next victim.

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I read about a theft at the Guadalajara airport about a year ago. A man was paying for a taxi ride at the window and some man grabbed his carry on and ran. I'll bet there are thieves watching constantly at the airport for an opportunity.

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This happens at the other end of the airport, too. A fellow I worked with in the Middle East was waiting in line to check in at the airport in Paris to fly home to the Gulf. He set his briefcase down briefly to do something and when he looked down seconds later, it was gone and nowhere in sight.

He not only lost a bunch of important papers for work, but $10,000 in cash as well! (Now, what the heck he was doing carrying so much cash, is beyond me and I didn't want to know.)

I'm sure that thief had a real party when he opened that case!

Bob

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Not sure what Paris has to do with Guadalajara but it sounds like your friend was taking his bakchich with him home...

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When I travel I send myself an email with all important information contained in it, ( phone numbers, passport numbers, credit card numbers, emergency contacts etc.). If the written information or documents go missing that I carry on me, I simply go to an internet cafe or similar place and sign into my e-mail and all the information is there. I can attach files like scanned copies of passport or license and although they are not originals it is better then having nothing, when in a foreign land with no identification.

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Not sure what Paris has to do with Guadalajara but it sounds like your friend was taking his bakchich with him home...

My point was that you can get robbed on your way in as well as your way out-- and at any airport.

Bob

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When I travel I send myself an email with all important information contained in it, ( phone numbers, passport numbers, credit card numbers, emergency contacts etc.). If the written information or documents go missing that I carry on me, I simply go to an internet cafe or similar place and sign into my e-mail and all the information is there. I can attach files like scanned copies of passport or license and although they are not originals it is better then having nothing, when in a foreign land with no identification.

I always wonder how safe it is having this kind of personal information in your emails if you have an online account, e.g. gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc. Couldn't it be accessed by a hacker or someone who may get their hands on your laptop? I travel with this info on a memory stick and keep it close to my person with passports, etc.

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Well you are right, the question of being hacked is always there. The kind of person who will rob you is also the kind of person to hack your computer, thefts of all kinds are all around. It is my personal view that the information will be safe in an email at least for the duration of a trip, then I can remove it when the trip is over, others may not feel comfortable with this. I feel the danger of being caught in a foreign place without access to this important information is worth the off chance my email account will be hacked while I am on the road. It is a matter of what you feel comfortable with.

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I always wonder how safe it is having this kind of personal information in your emails if you have an online account, e.g. gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc. Couldn't it be accessed by a hacker or someone who may get their hands on your laptop? I travel with this info on a memory stick and keep it close to my person with passports, etc.

In addition to the risk of having your laptop physically stolen or lost, when we are away from home, we tend to use public WiFi, etc.

People haunt these locations to monitor others and capture passwords-- presumably using a keystroke reader. Then they can hack your email, bank account, etc.

There is security software available (mine is part of my Norton package) that stores and enters all your passwords without your having to actually key them. .

You turn it off before you shut the computer down. Then you use a single password to unlock it again.

I suppose the people monitoring might be able to pick up your master password when you log in, but at least it wouldn't do them any good unless they actually had your laptop.

As to sending yourself an email with everything, that should be pretty safe if it is buried in a messy inbox with an innocuous title. If someone hacked your email, they probably wouldn't be interested in reading your mail. I assume they would want to use it to send spam, appeals for money, etc.

Another approach is to open an account with GMail or whomever and send the email and only that email to that one address and never go into it unless you absolutely had to.

Another idea might be to post it all to Skydrive or some other "cloud" type of service.

If you do use a thumb drive to store your important files, if at all possible, you would want to keep it separate from everything else (passport, etc.)-- like back in your hotel room. You don't want to lose everything at the same time-- for example, if your pack were stolen. It definitely should be the type you can password protect.

Come to think of it, it wouldn't be a bad idea to leave a second one with a trusted friend or relative back home as well.

Is there anybody more knowledgeable than I about computers who wants to weigh in--especially about security software?

Bob

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Good heads up info. Traveling now over the holidays. Never occurred to me to think about airport theft. Even while paying for a taxi? Good grief!

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Well you are right, the question of being hacked is always there. The kind of person who will rob you is also the kind of person to hack your computer, thefts of all kinds are all around. It is my personal view that the information will be safe in an email at least for the duration of a trip, then I can remove it when the trip is over, others may not feel comfortable with this. I feel the danger of being caught in a foreign place without access to this important information is worth the off chance my email account will be hacked while I am on the road. It is a matter of what you feel comfortable with.

Another option (that I'd be more comfy with) would be to create an info document that's password protected, and place it in my Dropbox account, where I can access it from my phone or any other computer if needed. Then delete the document when it's no longer needed. Good idea, though... thanks.

Heather

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In answer to comments about video footage... the airport security people said there is video of the event, and they supplied our guest with a contact to get in touch with so they can get a report and info for their homeowner's insurance. I haven't seen the video, but I have a pretty good idea of what happened since I was there. The thief ran into the parking garage with the backpack after it was taken. Since there are no cameras in there, no way to track them.

I think if I traveled with a laptop that I use frequently, I might install something like LoJack to help protect it and my data. I don't know how likely it would be to get the machine back, but I like the ability to wipe personal info in case it's stolen. Granted, somebody with a bit of knowledge could still get around the safety measures, but if a typical thief got the machine and connected to the Internet with it, there would be a good chance of protecting your info by deleting things before they could access files, email, browser info, etc. I wonder if people have much luck using this or something similar?

http://lojack.absolute.com/en

Thanks to everybody for your comments and suggestions. Our company went through several hours of hassle during a short trip, which sucked, but we didn't let it ruin the rest of our time.

Heather

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If I could add some suggestions:

1. Put the really important stuff in a backpack and never let go of it.

2. For iOS users, take advantage of iCloud, which lets you know where your device (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc.) is when it connects to the internet. Also, lock the screen so you need a pin to open it, and also with iCould, you can wipe the memory of your device remotely, assuming the device gets an internet connection.

3. Slightly off-topic but I never check bags anymore: too much theft from that.

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