As if paying to check your bags wasn’t bad enough, you now have to worry about all of your items arriving at your destination securely.

Chances are good that you know someone who has had something mysteriously missing from his or her checked bags. You may even have been a victim yourself. But, it’s not just checked baggage that’s at risk. Sticky-fingered TSA agents are rare, but they have been known to pocket items from carryon’s and purses in the screening area.

The worst part: Don’t assume that an airline will readily reimburse you for stolen goods. Their ticket rules rarely cover loss of cash, jewelry, electronics, furs, heirlooms, and other expensive items.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, mishandled baggage complaints, including theft, rank second only to flight problems as the most common consumer complaint.

Below are some tips to follow to help prevent your items from doing the disappearing act:

  • Use hard- sided luggage.
  • Avoid luggage that looks expensive.
  • Make your bags conspicuous by choosing eye-catching colors or distinctively colored straps.
  • Fly only with carryon’s whenever possible, and keep tabs on them when they go through security. If you must check luggage, pack valuables in your carry-on and divide your belongings among the bags of any fellow travelers so that if there’s any trouble, no one person will lose everything.
  • Pack only items that are easily replaced or those you can live without.
  • Use a TSA-approved lock or plastic cable ties to secure your bags.  Otherwise, checked luggage must remain unlocked for possible inspection, greatly increasing the risk of pilferage, or the TSA may decide to may break a non-approved lock to gain access.
  • Use an airport luggage-wrapping service–some offer free rewrapping if the TSA inspects your bag– or purchase a pilferage-resistant bag to contain your suitcase.
  • Fly nonstop, or at least direct (i.e., intermediate stops but no change of planes). The more airports your luggage passes through, the greater the risk of pilferage.
  • Flier status could make an airport thief think twice. So if you’re an elite frequent flier—the kind with access to swanky airport lounges—and you’ve been given complimentary luggage tags proclaiming your exalted frequent-flier status, use them.