Update: One week later

At the end of this post about how to navigate airport lost and found, I recommend asking for a refund if you inadvertently pay for a lost and found search service, like Instafile, as I did. I contacted Instafile, putting a request for a refund. After a couple of days, my request was denied. I wrote again, pointing out that the Seattle airport, where I left my jacket, has no relationship with any service, and therefore they had no standing to act on my behalf there. Since they were offering a service they had no right to offer, it sounded like a scam to me. I received a cheerful reply pointing out that they had filed a report on my behalf–I do not believe this–and also said they would give me a refund. Today I was notified that the refund is being processed. It took a couple of emails to get my $29.99 back, but I recommend that you don’t let these people keep your money for nothing if you make the same mistake I did.

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My recent experience trying to get back a jacket left at a TSA screening station provided several useful pointers that I want to share. We all hope that we won’t lose anything during our travels, but I can attest to the fact that it’s almost impossible to keep everything in order all the time. Sometimes things get lost. I’ve had good luck getting items returned, though every time it happens I am more and more surprised to get my lost item back.

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On Oct. 27, I got to the Seattle-Tacoma airport with plenty of time before my flight to LA. I got in the line for TSA pre-check, and it was pretty short. However, it required going through the scanner, and a TSA staff member offered to take my jacket, which apparently you can’t wear through the scanner even if you have pre-check. I never got it back, but I also never thought about it, because it wasn’t cold and I didn’t need it. While waiting for my luggage in LA, I finally realized my jacket was missing. I was only in town overnight before my flight to Lima, so I didn’t act on my missing item until the next morning at LAX while waiting for my flight to be called.

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At that time, I found a website called Instafile.com that claims to locate items lost in airports all over the US. The site claims to have the cooperation of many airports. They don’t. It’s a scam. I didn’t figure this out until several days after I paid $29.99 to Intafile Reporting. I received a cheery email from “agent232@instafilereporting. com, with additional “updates” telling me hard they were working, and asking me to advise them if I got word of my missing item via one of their partner agencies.

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I looked at contacting TSA, since that’s where I lost my jacket. TSA will hold on to your keys, cell phone, or electronics for a minimum of 30 days, though in some airports, items left at checkpoints are turned over to the airport lost and found at the end of each day. https://www.tsa.gov/contact/lost-and-found

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TSA works with another website that claims to help people collect their lost items from airports (Rejjee.com). Their service was free, but they did suggest that I prepay $39.99, for the return of my jacket, because it would be a lower rate that the charge after my jacket was found. I don’t know whether they are legit or not, but I had my doubts. I did more web-surfing and found that Seattle-Tacoma airport doesn’t partner with any organization, they have their own lost and found, complete with website and phone number. I started over. I filed a report online with a description of my jacket. I even found a photo of me wearing it. By this time, it was four days since I’d left Sea-TAC, and I didn’t really have any hope, but why not?

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I received “still looking” updates on Oct. 31 and Nov. 4 from all three groups. On Nov. 11, my file Instafile case was archived without any result. that same day I received a note from “noreply@lostandfoundsoftware.com” that asked for my email address. I almost deleted it, but went ahead and put in my email address and got a message that my jacket was found by the Seattle airport lost and found. After double checking that the phone number provided was actually the number for the Sea-Tac lost and found, I called and arranged to have my jacket shipped to my daughter in the US. The fedex shipping cost was $26.99, less than Rejjee.com’s “bargain” $39.99 shipping.

I hope I never ever leave anything behind in an airport again, but now I have learned a few things.

  • Keep track of your stuff. Try not to hand things off quickly, even when people are trying to help.
  • If you lose something, follow up as soon as possible, especially if you are still in the airport. If you have lounge access, ask for help there. Four years ago, I was reunited with a brand new tablet I left in my seat back due to the quick intervention of an American Airlines lounge agent. It was delivered to me onboard just before my connecting flight departed.
  • No longer in the airport? Figure out who to contact before you act. TSA has their own lost items page where you can file a report. They suggest using Rejjee.com, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that. Don’t do what I did and pay the first website that offers to help.
  • Contact the airport lost and found, even if your item was left at a TSA checkpoint. Though I could provide the exact checkpoint and time where I left it, my jacket ended up in the airport’s general lost and found.
  • Don’t pay anyone to look for your item, they are mostly scams.
  • PS. The woman at the Sea-Tac lost and found strongly suggested I contact the Instafile people and ask for a refund. She says most people brush off the $29.99 as not worth the effort, but she believes such scams won’t be curtailed if people just pay. Think how much money they make every day from a few automatically generated “we can help” emails.