Air travelers who have cash, credit cards, jewelry, cell phones, laptops and other valuables in their carry-on bags are being targeted by thieves during flights. About 24% of all thefts related to air travel take place in-flight rather than at an airport, according to a survey of clients from Absolute Software, a security technology and consulting firm.

How thieves get away with it: They watch for a passenger who stores carry-on luggage in an overhead bin many rows from where that passenger is sitting, then go to that bin during the flight and rifle through the luggage as if it’s their own. No one on board suspects there’s any problem. Making things worse, unlike with checked baggage, airlines do not assume responsibility for items stolen from carry-on baggage.

Self-defense: Keeping all valuables on your person or in a bag under the seat in front of you thwarts these thefts. That may not always be practical, so…

  • On your carry-on luggage, slide as many zipper pulls as you can to the same side of the bag. Then if you store this bag in an overhead luggage compartment, place it so that the zipper pulls face toward the back of the compartment. Also, turn your bag upside down so that the small, outer compartments are facing down, making it harder to unzip those pockets. That’s where travelers often pack their valuables and where thieves look first.
  • Try to stow your carry-on in your line of sight, placing it in an overhead compartment across from where you are sitting and either next to your row or one row forward, not directly over your seat, behind your seat or farther forward from where you are sitting.

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