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For most travelers, the thought of storing their valuables in checked luggage sends shivers down their spine. What if the wrong baggage handler gets ahold of their bag? Or their precious items get crushed in transit? There’s also the hassle of paying those bag fees.

Yet travelers may want to think twice before taking valuables on the flight altogether, according to a recent report from The Economist. Cabin robberies are on the rise, particularly on long-haul flights, where passengers are more likely to nod off, distract themselves with entertainment or be seated away from their bags in an overhead bin. Earlier this month, the magazine reported one Turkish businessman had $260,000 in cash and luxury goods stolen on a trip to Hong Kong.

“To me, this topic is mostly just common sense,” Brett Snyder, author of the blog Cranky Flier, said via email. Just stash your belongings under your seat, where no one can grab them. However, if you’re pressed by flight crew to put a purse or backpack in an overhead bin, you may not have much of a choice. As The Economist points out, just think what would happen if every passenger made that request; flight attendants might not be so accommodating.

Pack Like a Pro 

In order to get around the issue, here’s what Benét J. Wilson, senior editor of Airport Business Magazine, recommends.

Examine Your Things 

Take a long, hard look at your carry-on. Do you really need to bring that pearl necklace or Rolex watch? “I don’t bring a bunch of jewelry, I wear what I’m going to wear,” and that’s it, Wilson says, adding “I’m not taking expensive watches.” The less you carry, the less you’ll have for someone to steal from you.

Lock Up Carry-Ons

A TSA-approved lock makes it almost impossible for someone to try and open it, Wilson says.

Pack Smartly

Whether you choose to lock your bag or not, aim to stash your valuables in the bottom corner of your luggage so they’re harder for thieves to dig out, Wilson says. A lot of suitcases have deep internal pockets on the bottom, which are ideal for storing important items.

Wear an Over-the-Neck Passport Holder

Yes, they look dorky, but they’re also handy for holding things like passports, cellphones, credit cards and IDs, Wilson says. Wearing one can mean that “in case of an emergency, you’ll at least have the bare minimum to get you through.”

Always Fly Right 

Packing smart is one way to avoid having your belongings stolen when you’re on a flight. Keeping your vital documents in a passport holder can help you avoid dealing with identity theft. Something else to consider is notifying your credit card issuer and bank of your travel plans so they don’t see strange charges and freeze your account.

When you get home, it’s a good idea to review your credit card charges to look for anything suspicious. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud — or lost something important, like your ID — check your credit for signs of mischief, such as mysterious accounts being opened in your name and unfamiliar addresses. You can view your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

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Image: MarioGuti

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