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Beware: Your gadgets at risk of theft from TSA


(MoneyWatch) You've got a lot on your mind when you travel. Worries about making connecting flights, getting to the conference or sales meeting on time, getting home in time for your kid's birthday party. Now you can add to that list concern that your TSA agent might try to steal your iPad.

Recently, ABC News reported on the result of its sting operation in which it intentionally left ten iPads behind at TSA checkpoints to see if they could be recovered. In one case, a TSA screener stole a device and took it home, where it was easily traced using the iPad's location feature.

One in ten might not sound like an epidemic, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that there's widespread theft taking place among TSA agents. An Orlando screener, for example, was arrested for methodically stealing electronics and selling them on eBay -- going so far as to use an oversized hidden pocket in his jacket to take and conceal the goods.

The TSA denies that there's a widespread problem, though almost 400 agents have been dismissed in the last 9 years, with 11 this year alone. "This is the tip of the iceberg," says Rep. John Mica, chair of the House Transportation Committee. "It is an outrage to the public, and actually to our aviation system."

So what should you do to avoid becoming a victim of potential TSA electronics theft? Tech blog TechHive recommends two specific strategies:

  • Be sure to keep any expensive electronics in your carry-on baggage -- don't check it.
  • Enable Apple's Find my iPhone feature for your iPad and iPhone, or use a similar third-party app if you are an Android user.
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