What is ghost bagging? 3 women arrested at Nashville Airport in part of ‘ghost bag’ operation
Inside the bag, they found brand-new Lululemon clothes, a receipt, a forged driver’s license and a credit card.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Three women were arrested at the Nashville International Airport for allegedly participating in what police are calling a “ghost bag” operation.
Southwest Airlines notified officers over the weekend about a bag that arrived at BNA, but no one flew with it. Inside the bag, they found brand-new Lululemon clothes, a receipt, a forged driver’s license and a credit card.
Three women arrived at BNA to pick up the bag, according to police. Inside the car, police found $20,000 worth of gift cards, $9,000 worth of receipts and merchandise and ten credit cards.
Police said they believed the women were buying clothes using stolen credit card information. Then, they return them to different stores to get cash or store credit, police said.
So, what is ghost bagging?
A ghost bag is a bag checked onto a plane that arrives at its destination, but a person doesn’t travel with it, police said. Then, someone else waits at the arrival point to take the luggage from a carousel. This process is used as a way to transport drugs or carry out illegal activity.
WSMV4 learned that TSA and the airport don’t track these ghost bags. All bags that are checked or carried onto a plane are screened by TSA for explosives and weapons, a spokesperson said. TSA is not able to determine if the items inside the bag are stolen from its normal scanning machines.
Ghost bagging is not uncommon; however, it is hard to tell how much it happens, TSA officials said. Once the checked bag makes it to the baggage carousel, it lies in the hands of the airline, and they are not able to monitor who picks it up.
Impact at the airport
Every airline handles baggage differently, a BNA spokesperson said. In this case, the passenger sending a ghost bag was on Southwest Airlines.
Southwest does not require a passenger to be on a domestic flight for their bag to be put on the plane, an airline spokesperson told WSMV4 via email. That allowed the bag to be sent through to its destination and go unclaimed at the baggage carousel.
Many passengers flying out of BNA on Monday said they felt uncomfortable having unattended bags on their flights, including Jennifer Larson. She had not heard about the practice until learning about this arrest.
“It’s kind of scary to think that people can put whatever they want in a piece of luggage and ship it,” Larson said before boarding her flight to South Dakota. “I hope that they regulate that if a bag doesn’t have a passenger with it. then they don’t let the bag get on the plane. I mean, that’s common sense. If you are not on the plane, your bag shouldn’t be on the plane.”
Other passengers, like Tracey Prue who was returning home to Dickson from visiting his daughter in Texas over the weekend, feel like Nashville is being targeted because it is a quickly growing hub. Prue said he does not see enough security around baggage claim to prevent someone from walking in and taking a suitcase.
“These criminals are just looking for any way to manipulate the system,” Prue said. “Baggage claim is so easy to pick up someone else’s bags. It’s been like that for years, so when you are on top of things, when you are flying, just make sure you are aware your bag is in there. Just be aware of your surroundings. If you see a bag going around by itself with nobody around, maybe let someone know.”
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