These Tips May Save You From The Laglag Bala Scam

For those of you who are making plans of going on an out-of-town or out-of-the-country trip, you should by now be well aware of the incidents causing a hella hullabaloo at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). With more and more passengers reporting to be victims of the so called tanim bala (or laglag bala) scam, it's quite natural to worry that you might be next. 

Here are some tips that might just save you from falling prey to this seriously alarming and embarrassing scam:

1. Avoid using bags or luggage with external pockets.

While it would be way too easy for a pickpocket to pry open the zippers and side pockets of your bags to snatch the things inside, it would also be a breeze for scammers to slip in a bullet or two in your bags if it has numerous external pockets. It would be advisable that all pouches, zippers, and outside pockets of your bags are closed and tightly sealed. Never mind that you don’t even put anything in those external pockets, regardless of that, it is also a free space for the scammer to slip in an item as small as a bullet.

2. Use zippered handbags.

Yes, large open-top handbags are popular these days but they should be avoided when going through NAIA. Use a bag with a zipper instead.

3. Wear Something simple.

Clothing is also a factor to consider. If you are wearing a jacket that has multiple outer pockets then you may very well be a good target for these scammers. Also, avoid wearing accessories that would need to be removed before going through the x-ray machine, like a belt or watch. Taking them off while going through screening would distract your attention from your bag – the perfect opportunity for perpetrators to drop the magic bullet inside without you noticing.

4. Use hard-case luggage.

Hard-case luggages are sturdy and give you more security for your belongings. They are impenetrable and will make it hard for anyone to slash through them, unlike those made from fabric. If you don't have a hard suitcase though, just...

5. Secure your bags with locks. 

You will immediately notice if your bag has been tampered with or opened without your permission if the seal is broken. Having a security lock encased within the two zippers of your suitcase is an additional security measure and a comforting sign that it would not be easy for anyone to slip in an item inside your bag. Plastic cable ties can also be used as an alternative to locks. They’re cheap and are not resealable so you’ll be absolutely certain when someone opens your bag. You can get them at CD-R King, National Bookstore, Office Depot or other office supplies stores.

cable ties you can use to secure your luggage

6. Wrap your whole bag.

As ugly as wrapping your bag with plastic would look, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. There are now available wrapping services at NAIA but you can easily do this at home yourself. Just buy a couple of rolls of clingy plastic wrap and mummify your precious suitcase until you're sure nothing can get inside. If you prefer something prettier, some local stores like Suit Up  and Wanderskye are selling fun covers that make your bags more secure. 

Photos grabbed from each store's Facebook page. Left: Suit Up , Right: WanderSkye            

7. Pack light. 

Try to pack your things in as few bags as possible. Having less stuff to look after makes it easier to secure your belongings. It also makes the next tip easier to do.

8. Do not allow strangers to handle your luggage.

As much as possible do not let anyone handle your baggage. This is one of the easiest ways the scammers can access your luggage and plant the bullet inside. If you can carry your bags on your own, then do so. Don't be a señor or señorita relying on porters to move your stuff. Look for a trolley you can use for your bags instead. 

9. Always keep an eye on your belongings.

We always see this as a notice in public areas - "Never leave your belongings unattended". If you're one of those passengers who leave their carry-on luggage outside the toilet cubicle when they pee, don't. It doesn't matter how cramped that cubicle is, just bring your stuff inside. Otherwise, get someone you trust to watch your bag for you. 

Even when passing through the airport security, from the walk-thru metal detector and to the x-ray bag inspection, you should always, always keep an eye on your luggage. For extra security, place your sealed suitcase on the x-ray conveyor first (see tips 5 & 6), then when it has passed through, place your carry-on (handbag, laptop bag, etc. ) just before you pass through the metal detectors and make sure it's at the other side when you get there.

Bring your stuff inside no matter how small that toilet cubicle is.  Click to Tweet

What to do if security screening personnel say that they saw a bullet in your bag?

I honestly would freak out if this happens to me but..

Do not panic. Do not make a commotion and do not let them touch nor open your bag. Ask the screening officer first if they could show you the monitor and the x-ray image of your bag so both parties will be able to identify if the findings of a bullet in your bag is indeed accurate. If they insist on checking your bags themselves, before they do, make sure to have your lawyer present there with you as a witness to properly document the inspection.

To lessen the chances of being a victim of the Laglag Bala scam, it is important to be proactive and it won't hurt to be overly cautious.

If you have other ideas for keeping our bags secure, please share them in the comments below.

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