(From Lynn Berry, TODAY Producer)
Many of us here at TODAY have a "beat". Whether it's hard news, fashion, politics, or cooking demos, we become mini "experts" on the topics. So much research goes into producing, and in the end you learn a tremendous amount about each story. My beat is security. I've done a lot of segments on scams, safety and security concerns. Basically, it's made me paranoid. Even my editors say they've gotten paper shredders or secure wireless devices because of the segments we've worked on, and I've done the same. Whether it's how to negotiate the price on a new car or how to protect myself when walking alone at night, I've learned a lot and hope people at home have gotten something out of it as well.
This week we're working on Airport Crimes. Today’s segment is about a scam many people have never given much thought to. WATCH VIDEO When you check-in your luggage, how do you know if someone's taken items from the bag during transport, and do you check when it arrives on the other end? I never open my bag at the airport...I wait until I get home to unpack. What power do I have if I'm not at the airport to report the crime?
Little did I know a good friend of mine, who also happens to be a producer at the show, had experienced this first-hand. She heard I was producing a segment on Airport Crime and shared her own story with me. The lessons she learned were invaluable to me, so in the spirit of blogging I thought this would be a good place to share her story.
She was traveling from NY to LA for work and put her purse in her duffel bag so she didn't have to carry it. She boarded the plane, opened her duffel and the purse was gone. What happened to it? She still doesn't know. Could have been swiped at the security checkpoint. How many times have you gone through security, been slowed down by people ahead of you being screened as your bags are waiting on the other side. No one knows which bag belongs to whom so someone could easily grab a laptop, duffel or purse and be gone before you make it to the other end. So, there she was on a plane, spending the next 5 hours wondering what to do. The airline was helpful, called New York after they'd taken off and gave her information about how to handle the situation. When she landed they'd found her purse in the ladies bathroom, empty with a few invaluable items inside. We forget how helpless we are without money, a license or cell phone. How do you rent a car to get around LA (can't get around without one)? How do you buy food (she begged Starbucks to give her a coffee and promised to pay them back...they were kind enough to oblige.) How do you get home (without a license)? How do you cancel your credit cards (without a cell phone or inventory of card numbers)? All these questions completely overwhelmed her, and she found out the old fashioned way...by trial and error. A friend from LA picked her up and spent the next few days driving her around. She spent hours on the hotel phone calling credit card companies. She eventually got it resolved. Here are a few tips she told me that made me send out a mass email to friends and family:
* Inventory your wallet - Document all credit card numbers and customer service phone numbers so you don't spend extra time finding the right person to talk to. Also, check out the website http://www.dialahuman.com/ which tells you which numbers to press to avoid those pesky computer generated customer service helpers (not) and actually talk to a human!!! GENIUS! Also, write out your driver's license number so you can call the DMV and have a replacement sent. Give that inventory to a loved one that you can contact easily and they'll have it accessible to them. Keep another copy at home as a back up.
* File a police report - Ask the airline to put you in contact with airport police as soon as possible. Also, file a report with local police. Be sure and note first and last names of people that helped you so you are able to follow up accordingly.
* Notify credit agency - Call credit agencies to have your identity frozen. This will prevent anyone from opening accounts in your name. Identity theft is a subject we address frequently here at TODAY, and that's because it happens all the time. One in four Americans have had their identity stolen. Those aren't good odds. Here's the number to the Equifax fraud division, 800-525-6285. This is one of a few credit agencies that can help you with that.
* Keep your Social Security card at home! NEVER carry your social security card with you in your wallet. That's gold for a thief. It should stay at home in a secure place.
* Have backup cash/credit cards. Carry credit cards and some extra cash in a separate place when traveling. This can be a safety net should you ever need it.
I learned a lot from my friend's experience. I hope you will too. If you have questions for Peter Greenberg, write to us here on the blog, and we'll try to have him answer on air!