Travel Security Announcement: Breaking into a Suitcase with a Ballpoint Pen and What You Can Do About It - ITS Tactical
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Travel Security Announcement: Breaking into a Suitcase with a Ballpoint Pen and What You Can Do About It

By The ITS Crew

We’re presenting a security announcement today surrounding the protection of your valuables while traveling. The technique of using a ballpoint pen to open any luggage utilizing a zipper, is one that’s been publicly disclosed for some time now.

There are unfortunately many that aren’t aware of this risk, or that it leaves no tell-tale sign that the suitcase has even been tampered with. As you’ll see below in our video demonstration, by simply shoving a ballpoint pen into the zipper track, you can pull the suitcase lid open and access the interior contents. Then with a simple movement of a still-locked zipper slider you can reseal the suitcase without leaving evidence of tampering.

We also offer some suggestions in this article on what you can do to further secure your luggage while traveling, both physical items that afford you extra security and knowledge that will help you the next time you travel.

Breaking Into a Suitcase With a Pen

Travel Security Caveats

The fact of the matter remains that any suitcase, luggage or pack that utilizes a zipper is susceptible to this attack. There are some ideas we’d like to present here that will at least either secure the interior contents of your suitcase or provide evidence that your belongings have been tampered with.

Before getting into that, know that there’s no perfect method to protect a suitcase that’s out of your direct control. Once you turn over your luggage to the airline, there’s always a risk of never getting it back. Luggage gets “lost” all time, never to be reunited with its owner. Knowing this, we hope that you always decide to keep your valuables and irreplaceable items in a carry-on that’s always in your control.

Something else to be cognizant of is continuing to watch the overhead bin you’ve just put your carry-on into until the flight attendant shuts it. We’ve heard horror stories of someones carry-on being ripped off right on the airplane by another passenger on their way to their seat. They simply move the carry-on to the overhead bin near their seat and leave the plane with your bag before you even know it’s gone.

Increasing Your Odds

Security as a whole is only to either buy you time, or visually and physically harden what you intend to secure. That being said, the options we’re presenting here are just that. Either options to buy you the time to inconvenience a would-be thief, or make them disregard your belongings as a target.


The first item you can use to secure valuables inside your suitcase is a Pacsafe, which is steel cable webbing that surrounds bulky contents with a lockable drawstring. To utilize this, you’ll need to have a luggage frame to route the cable around. Most suitcases with collapsible  handles have this underneath the liner. If you don’t have a liner you can unzip to access these struts, you may have to make cuts to feed a cable through.

These Pacsafes are also great for using once you get to your destination. You can put a bag or other contents in them and lock it to a bed frame in a hotel room when you have to leave. While anyone with bolt cutters or lock picks can get into them easily, just remember its intended purpose. To either buy you time or visually and physically harden.

Breaking into a Suitcase with a Ballpoint Pen

In-Car Gun Lockers

Another option for your valuables are In-Car Gun Lockers from Center of Mass. These lockers have so many applications and can be utilized for everything from suitcases to vehicles for storage of valuables and handguns. These also feature a steel cable that can be girth hitched around the struts in your suitcase or even to the frame of the seat in your vehicle.

TSA requires a locked case inside of your suitcase for transportation of a firearm when traveling and these In-Car Gun Lockers are perfect for this. Again, is this a completely full proof method? No, but here’s the broken record… It’s to buy you time or visually and physically harden. These lockers can also be keyed alike when purchased, or come in a combination lock configuration, which is less pick-resistant than the double-sided key required to open the keyed lockers.

One last benefit of these are that you can keep a handgun securely stored in a vehicle with an In-Car Gun Locker while visiting establishments that don’t allow concealed carry. Examples of these are federal buildings, post offices and private property with properly posted signage.


Hard Cases

Probably the most costly option today is to travel with a heavy hard case like a Pelican Case. This will surely add to the weight of your belonging and tip you into the “overweight” category with the airlines. If cost isn’t an issue with what your traveling with, this may be the best option, as you can securely lock Pelican Cases with multiple locks.

Just remember padlocks can always be shimmed or picked open and relocked without leaving tell-tale signs.

Anti-Theft Luggage Zipper Strap

While a misnomer, the Anti-Theft Luggage Zipper Strap won’t prevent theft, but it will give you a visual indication of tampering. This inexpensive option simply prevents a would-be thief from re-closing your suitcase after they’ve gotten into it by opening the zipper track with a pen. This will obviously give you the indication of a break-in, but also won’t allow them to re-close it.

securetagThis can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good in the sense that it will tell you if someone has tampered with your suitcase, but by not allowing the thief or the airline to re-close it you could be setting yourself up for lost contents or worse, your suitcase never arriving.

Shipping Your Suitcase

One last option is to ship your suitcase. While you’re still susceptible here as you are with the airlines, there’s another degree of security you’re afforded by having your suitcase in an nondescript cardboard box.

Just like with the airlines, loss and theft still run rampant and there’s also the hassle of setting up a destination to ship your luggage to.

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