TSA Watch: “Secret” memo explains differences between medical devices and weapons of mass destruction

Remember when the TSA accidentally published its passenger screening manual online a few years ago? Well, in light of this week’s events, which call into question the agency’s basic operating procedures, I’m not waiting around for it to do that again (although it probably will).

In the spirit of helpfulness, I thought I’d write my own memo to the agency’s 58,401 employees, clarifying the functions of some commonly-confused items and how they should be properly screened. Since it’s the TSA, where everything is a secret, this memo would be labeled “Sensitive Security Information” (SSI) and you wouldn’t be able to read it until the agency inadvertently published it online, and then it would be absolutely fine.
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What’s your problem? My diamond ring wasn’t forever

Question: My husband and I purchased what would become my engagement and wedding ring from our local Zales store in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A week later my husband proposed. That night I wore my ring to bed, only to find a diamond missing the next morning. Thankfully, we found the diamond in the sheets and were able to take it into our local store and have it fixed.

Six months later, the same diamond fell out of my ring once again. After returning to the store a second time, we were told by our store manager that I need to be careful and be sure I’m not being too rough on it. (For what it’s worth, I teach. At the time, I taught middle school and the only thing I’d been doing was preparing lessons for the next school year. I highly doubt that constitutes “being rough” on it.)

The manager suggested I look into exchanging the ring. He told us that he would be ordering us another one (and according to him, there was only one of these rings left and he would have to order it). He said that even though it may take a few weeks to get it in, it would be replaced and I would be given a new ring.

Instead of exchanging the ring, Zales decided to fix it. They didn’t bother to tell us until we noticed it was the same ring and returned it. Needless to say, we were furious.

My diamond has just fallen out of my ring again. We took it back to Zales to find out what can be done. The company offered to either exchange the ring, have it repaired or having the four diamonds replaced with a stone of similar value.

We’re fed up. We want the $3,413 we spent back and to just part ways with Zales. Can you help?

Libby Foster, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Answer: Your engagement ring came with a lifetime warranty, which should have covered the repairs to your engagement ring. You didn’t expect a lifetime of trouble with it, and I can understand your frustration.
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Don’t get scammed! 4 cons that target travelers – and how to spot them

Nancy Miller considers herself an experienced traveler, so on a recent trip to Bangkok, the last thing she thought she’d get suckered by was a scam aimed at gullible tourists.

But there she was in a jewelry store, being told that today only, the Thai government wasn’t collecting taxes on precious stones. “They did it very, very slickly with multiple seeming unrelated parties corroborating the story of the special time to buy gems,” she recalls. “Fortunately, I didn’t get sold glass, but I overpaid by about 50 percent — ouch!”

Worse, it was months before she realized she’d been taken. She didn’t find out about it until she read about it online. Turns out the Bangkok Gem Scam is one of the oldest in the book.

Miller is an unlikely victim. She’s a college-educated, street-smart New Yorker who has worked in the travel industry.

“When people say they are much too smart to get taken and that the victim must be stupid, naïve or untraveled, I want to slap them,” she says. “Believe me, it really can happen to anyone.”

A recent reader poll found that one-quarter of travelers believe scams against them – which are defined as cons perpetrated against tourists at a destination – are “worse than ever.” About 7 in 10 felt the threat was about the same as ever, which is to say, you still have to be on your guard when you’re away. Only 12 percent thought it wasn’t a big problem.

This column normally focuses on the scams that affect travelers before the leave and while they’re enroute, of which there are more than plenty. But what happens once you’re there?
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