Avoiding foreign prisons with a zip tie

A friend of mine was sitting in her seat waiting for her flight to leave Mexico when she heard her name called over the intercom. She and her partner were asked to deplane and were corralled into a security office flanked by Mexican police officers. She was asked identify her bag and examine the contents. Everything seemed to be the same EXCEPT for a case of bullets stacked neatly on top of her clothing. She was allowed a phone call before she was thrown into a Mexican prison and forced to sleep on a cement floor with very little hope of leaving.

In 24 hours, after numerous calls by her family and money transfers amounting to over $7,000, she was released with all records of the incident completely erased. It was a nightmare experience that she wishes she could forget but raises the question of who did it and why? Who did those bullets belong to and why would someone put them in her bag?

The answer will never be known for certain but the most plausible solution is that she was targeted and set up by an individual or group working with the police. Mexican police are notorious for extracting bribes from tourists so such a theory is quite possible. So, how did someone get in her bag? She packed it, left it for a few hours in the hotel lobby and then took it to the airport. If it had been a set up by a group, it would have been fairly easy to put the contraband in her bag while it was unattended in the lobby. At the risk of conspiracy theories, with so much money involved, a hotel employee might have even set her up. How do you keep this from happening to you? Zip ties.

The best solution is to never let your bag out of your sight, however in real life, sometimes you have to put it on top of a bus or leave it at your hotel if you have a late flight. Carrying a few zip ties in your bag can make you immediately aware if your bag has been tampered with. If you use a distinct color, chances are that a would-be-robber or someone with malicious intent will not have a similar one and will move on to the next victim. Not only should you zip tie the two zippers together, but also connect them to the handle. There’s a simple way of getting into your luggage with no evidence, even if you’ve locked it or zip locked if the zippers can be moved(shown in this video:  https://youtu.be/mf-DGKUNffI ). Connecting the zippers to the handle will keep thieves from covering their tracks. You can even take a photo of your bag after it’s been tagged by the counter with the zip ties in view. If you’ve checked your bag and then you see it on the luggage carousel without a tie or the zipper compromised, you can call attention to it to airport security before you pick up your bag. At least you have an alibi if there’s been foul play or proof of tampering should you have to report a loss.

Some travelers have asked the question “how do you get the zip tie off your bag since you’re not allowed to carry a knife on a plane”? Nail clippers are now allowed in your carry on or you can have a small pen knife in your checked luggage in an outside pocket. If you’re in a pinch, your car key might be used as a miniature saw.

So, grab a few fluorescent or crazy colored zip ties and put them with your travel stuff for your next trip. You might be surprised at the other uses that you’ll find for them. You can use them to fix clothing, strap items to your bag, repair a tent or even make an emergency splint. Even better, it can keep your possessions safe and you out of trouble.

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