Cheap OzBargain Holidays Got Me on Customs/Quarantine’s Radar

Thanks to an understanding boss (LSL, LWOP), holidays, public holidays and especially Ozbargain deals I no longer plan a trip based on a destination and basically see something cheap posted on ozbargain and make it work.

I love all the travelling and am finding myself overseas at least four times a year for relatively short stays, usually a week or under and 3/4 in SE Asia due to the price/short travel time.

Some trips are with my young family (wife and two kids). Others just wife and I. Others are with friends or solo.

With good comes the bad, right. So it looks like I’m on customs/quarantine‘s radar. The last three times I’ve come back from OS I’ve passed through the smart gates and there has been a customs/quarantine officer who has coincidently asked me how I’m going when I check the monitor for my checkin luggage pickup gate number thingy. He asks to see my ticket, makes a mark on it and then says bye. After collecting my luggage I head to the ‘nothing to declare’ exit and he is waiting for me. Asks me to come into the inspection area and grills me with questions, asks me if I read and signed my arrival card, packed my luggage and goes through my luggage, scans it, looks for hidden compartments, asks me to unlock my phone and goes through it, etc.

The whole process usually takes the best part of 45 minutes. Involves one or two officers and is not the most pleasant experience.

I understand they’re doing their job, but clearly this isn’t random. I asked why they chose me and he said this time it’s because I have new luggage (Ozbargain deal on American Tourist bags represent), one way ticket (wasn’t, was a Skyscanner fare with Jetstar over and virgin back), returning from SE Asia (Bali), that I had been checked before and that ‘the system’ also tells them.

The guy also suggested that they were looking for drugs.

For context I’m in my late 30s, have a good full time public sector job, don’t have a criminal record or ever been charged and have never been caught or even tried bringing anything unlawful into Australia or anywhere else. I’m Caucasian and don’t think I look particularly ‘dodgy’. I’ve probably been overseas 30 times and this has happened only on the last three.

Is anyone else having these experiences? Does anyone have any insight into what is going on or why I’m being targeted? Is this just part of my life now moving forward as an international holidayer/traveller who is a sucker for an ozbargain travel deal?

Btw yes I know I’m fortunate and I should ‘suck it up’ etc etc but just curious as to why and what’s going on?

I’m off to NZ tomorrow for a week, so will be interesting if it’s 4/4 on the return.

FWIW I’m not doing anything dodgy. If I was I wouldn’t bring attention to myself on a public forum!

Btw for some reason I’m now a Jim and the poll question is also a response 😭

Poll Options

  • 241
    Do u get regularly targeted?
  • 17
    Yes
  • 114
    No

Comments

  • +74 votes

    God I love this site.

  • +31 votes

    I'd profile you more as a sex pest than a drug dealer

    • +2 votes

      Ops profile avatar checks out, very suspicious!

    • +1 vote

      😂😂 but I’m not!

    • -1 vote

      it sounds like theyre more interested in drugs, so being profiled a sex pest would probably make life easier
      as long as the girls/boys are legal age then whatever
      may as well lean into it, get into unpleasant detail of what you can do with a person over there for $30
      suggest that you like a more "experienced" practician to play it a bit safe

  • +1 vote

    I'm not lucky enough to be in your position

  • +13 votes

    op is a sexpat?

    •  

      I’m honestly not!

      • +1 vote

        it depends on a few things.

        where you're traveling to. is the ticket purchased in your name? the type of luggage is also a key factor. i've spent years travelling round asia and picked a few heads about this as i felt like i was 'targeted' or had been 'flagged'

        the most common one is the type of luggage you have and the destination you're departing.

        drug carriers tend to (apparently) favour certain kinds of luggage. i made the mistake years ago buying a fake gucchi bag at the start of my travels in phuket and then got flagged every bloody stop for the next 3 months of travelling.

        •  

          Haha that’s funny (and annoying).

          There’s no doubt I’ve been flagged. The guy made it fairly clear when I asked. Tickets were definitely in my name.

          The luggage is fairly standard. Large checkin bag from this deal

          https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/459916

          Glad to hear I’m not the only one.

        • +1 vote

          A Gucci bag? wow that's something.
          When I was in Moscow late last year I bought a real WWII Soviet gas mask as a souvenir for a friend, forgot to declare it, but I got through customs perfectly fine, didn't even get stopped once or anything :).
          The gas mask was in mint condition, all the accessories and spare accessories too, such as canister filters and glass eye pieces.

          • +2 votes

            @Wystri Warrick: I bought a machete in Philippines and found an out of the way spot in my checked luggage to bring it back to Aus. Completely forgot I had it in there, and travelled for the better part of a year with it in my luggage. Never got stopped or asked about it.

          •  

            @Wystri Warrick:

            real WWII Soviet gas mask

            I'm betting you bought a real fake WWII mask - Nothing war surplus that you buy as a tourist is legit. Much easier for the seller to call it a WWII relic and double the price

            The gas mask was in mint condition

            Another red flag, I doubt it would be in good condition if it's from WWII

      •  

        You mean you're hot nestly hot ?

  • +4 votes

    Love the "Do u get regularly targeted?" poll option.

    Does anyone have any insight into what is going on or why I’m being targeted?

    I think you answered your own question here.

    I asked why me and he said this time it’s because I have new luggage (Ozbargain deal on American Tourist bags), one way ticket (wasn’t, was a Skyscanner fare with Jetstar over and virgin back), returning from SE Asia (Bali), that I had been checked before and that ‘the system’ also tells them.

  • +31 votes

    OP are you George Christensen?

  • +8 votes

    Same deal as OP when on a very regular work schedule that involved travel to multiple countries, with transits (from 1 day to 3 weeks) through Australia. It wasn't a problem for me.

    OP's profile with Customs should be growing on each trip, and should develop to a point where no longer targeted.

    In addition, on entering almost any airport in Aust, I will be targeted for the bomb-material scan (just after security). I would say in probably 95% of instances.
    And I think that is more of a waste of time than anything else.

    • +5 votes

      Oh wow that’s actually good news. So maybe after my fifth consecutive search they will give up.

      I like this feedback.

    • +11 votes

      I'm pretty sure the bomb scan is random and they pick the first person they see that walk by.
      If I see them not checking anyone, I usually slow down my packing after the security scan to let someone else walk first.
      And as soon as they grab that person for scanning, I quickly grab my things.

      •  

        I've been randomly selected for that on more than half my flights…

      •  

        I tried that trick, nope, now they do them in batches of 3 people!

        •  

          Depends on the airport. That happened to me in Adelaide airport and I was really peeved because they used the same swab through all the bags without separating it. If something comes up do we all get in trouble? It's infuriating. Never had multiple people at any other airport.

          •  

            @Fever4shakin: You'd assume they would retest 1 bag by 1 bag. I'd say they were doing the dodgy and behind for their quota (I always see them marking off their list of tests done) and they were confident enough they would get 3 negatives.

            There was a similar thing with police officers breathing into their own breathalyzers to make it look like they'd tested more drivers. At least this way they did physically test all the bags.

          •  

            @Fever4shakin:

            If something comes up do we all get in trouble?

            Pretty smart actually. Testing three at once might cut down time taken by half (or more) to change out the swabs, and in the unlikely chance it's flagged, THEN you swap out the swab and retest.

            So you save 1x time per three, and spend 2x the time IF one gets flagged. You only need to pass 6 people without finding bomb residue to break even, time/effort wise.

      •  

        If I see them not checking anyone, I usually slow down my packing after the security scan to let someone else walk first. And as soon as they grab that person for scanning, I quickly grab my things.

        I used to do this. Until I got noticed and got the deluxe inspection for trying to evade them.

        (No not cavity search TF)

    •  

      I always get a first false positive on the bomb scan. Every damn time.

      •  

        Sweaty back? Then they have to do a pat down. I've had that a few times.

        •  

          No pat down, just more random samples from specific parts of my body and carry-on. Always passes on the second go.

    •  

      I used to get bomb scanned almost every time then i discovered a little trick that helps me avoid it more often than not. when you get your stuff off the conveyor on the other side, have a few loose items in the tray that you need to insert back into your bag. Keep the scanner person visible in your peripheral vision and just take as much or as little time as you need for him to select someone else. As soon as he's got another target, finish packing and head off. This comment will probably get me on a watch list now lol

      •  

        That should help, but they take multiple people and do a shared test these days (for "efficiency reasons")
        Too bad if they get a hit, and then you get held up while they re-test each individually.

    • +1 vote

      Last time I got scanned I asked if they picked me because of my beard,(being cheeky) the lady pointed out a light above the metal detector frame that flashes as it picks a random that walks through. Been that way for 1-2 years at Sydney.

      • +1 vote

        Yeah I can confirm. A few weeks ago I was “randomly selected” at Zurich airport for the explosive test pat down. The guy was like “english or German - you have been randomly selected for an explosive test” and pointed at the metal detector that beeped (despite having no metallic objects on me). So I got the full treatment to Swiss standards including swabbing bag and body, and at the end he was like “sank you very maatch you aah oké to go nau”… as for whether that is purely random I don’t know, they could just trigger the beep themselves.

      •  

        "So you don't like my beard? Do you think I should grow it longer or shave it?"

    •  

      In addition, on entering almost any airport in Aust, I will be targeted for the bomb-material scan (just after security)

      That's not you.

      The metal detectors tell the security people who to choose.

      •  

        I'm not sure that a metal detector would be able to identify potential exposure to bomb-making materials. My understanding is that the technologies, and their uses, are quite independent of each other.

        From the Sydney Airport site "Officers must carry out ETD tests on a random and continuous basis to meet regulatory requirements."

        •  

          I'm not sure that a metal detector would be able to identify potential exposure to bomb-making materials

          I didn't say that it did.

          It chooses you at random so a human doesn't have to.

          •  

            @spaceflight: I don't think a device can "choose" an individual; on what basis would that selection be made?

            If it just a randomisation based on volume of people passing through the metal detector, the indicator would be a guide only.

  • +12 votes

    HE CAN'T KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH IT!

  • +6 votes

    I’m Caucasian and don’t think I look particularly ‘dodgy’

    Just because YOU don't think you look dodgy doesn't mean aren't the dodgiest looking guy in the airport.

    • +59 votes

      Do the bus/train test.

      Go into a semi empty bus/train.

      Once the seats fills up, see who gets a neighbour before you.

      If the hobo with the pet stuffed animal and Dora the explorer backpack gets a seat buddy before you do, a little introspection is overdue.

  • +17 votes

    Hi, I'm 9,999 for 9,999 for getting "random" explosives test (Australian side).

    I wonder what gives it away - my suicide bomb proof memory foam neck pillow or fire retardant flight pyjamas.

    •  

      Me too. But I'm a fair way from 9,999. I'm a big bloke. Maybe they think it's not all me.

      •  

        Generally, just generally and not in anyway relevant to you, if one has the physique of a pimple addled scrawny teenager in a sumo suit, one may be the suspect of a number of violations.

      • +1 vote

        Yeah we all know you are just a kid stacked on top of another kid.

    • +6 votes

      If you have to complete #x of scans per shift, you want to do a bunch of quick easy ones. So you pick unlikely targets to have a good chance of negative.
      Not the fifo guy in hi viz with blast traces from the mine who will require a bunch of paperwork.

      So don’t feel too paranoid.

      • +2 votes

        Yes, this!
        Was travelling on a work trip with my boss once, and I got held up going through the metal detector. Boss was waiting for me and started talking to the bomb-test guy. Asked him what he looks for, how he picks people and the guy said "I've got a splitting headache today, so I'm just trying to pick people who won't make a fuss".

        They are subject to human nature as much as the rest of us…

    •  

      Same! I don't even travel that much. And it's always the "step here, I need to swab your shoes" one as well. Maybe my shoes look dodgy? They're black…

  • +20 votes

    I'm a little concerned that they can ask you to unlock your phone.

    What do they do with it? A person can have many hundreds of photos / videos on their device + Google Photos / One Drive / Dropbox etc.

    Are Quarantine allowed to look through those? I am guessing they are looking for objectionable content, but are they going to go photo by photo?

    My first impulse is to refuse the request (if I can).

    • +3 votes

      They asked me to u lock it. They looked through my photos app and notes app because both were left on screens I don’t usually access. On top of that I don’t know what else they looked at. They had my phone for about 15 minutes.

      One of the officers called another over to show them something on the phone. Weird.

      • +3 votes

        You mean they took the phone away?

        They must have done a sweep on the phone then.

        • +1 vote

          Took the phone about five meters away and just opened apps and scrolled through it. At one point took the phone into a different room and returned five minutes later.

          • +7 votes

            @Bellpop: It's possible to clone phone storage and/or install apps. They probably did that before giving it back to you. What phone is it?

            • +4 votes

              @orangetrain: iPhone X. TBH the worst thing on there is some out there memes from mates so I’m not worried about it aside from the general invasion of privacy based on nothing

          • +5 votes

            @Bellpop:

            At one point took the phone into a different room and returned five minutes later.

            Cloned.

          • +2 votes

            @Bellpop:

            Took the phone about five meters away and just opened apps and scrolled through it. At one point took the phone into a different room and returned five minutes later.

            Get a new phone and use a burner phone when travelling or at least wipe your regular phone of anything confidential/sensitive (all cached/saved credentials, passwords, photos) or save it to a computer.

      • +1 vote

        Most concerns about this as well.
        Don't they need reasonable cause to look into your phone?

    • +12 votes

      I'm a little concerned that they can ask you to unlock your phone.

      That's what I was thinking. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone ever being asked to unlock their phone.

      Also curious as to whether it's legal…

      • +6 votes

        I've had it happen to a friend, twice in the last six months. It took ages apparently.

      • +8 votes

        It's legal and has caused quite a stir both here and on reddit previously. Refusal will land you in a lot of trouble.

        • +2 votes

          That's incredible. Going to have a quick read of this Reddit thread, thanks for sharing. The OP is a great blurb/lure to read the whole thread.

        •  

          Correct. It's legal.

          Note - Customs cannot make you unlock your phone.

          However if you refuse, say goodbye to your phone for 1-8 weeks.

          They can then obtain a Court Order to compel you to unlock it. Refusing then is bad news.

      • +1 vote

        They do it a lot on Boarder Patrol so it must be "a thing". Looking for kiddy pron, violent pron, etc

        • +4 votes

          Yea I mean I can totally imagine what they're looking for and I don't have an issue with them wanting to get people done for stuff like that. I'm more imagining being in that situation and feeling super anxious/nervous about the whole ordeal. I absolutely cannot imagine it even being a "neutral" experience, even if you knew you have done absolutely nothing wrong…

          • +1 vote

            @illumination: It's a lousy experience. Like Police, they deliberately try and make you feel inferior and nervous so that you make mistakes in your answers, etc

          • +7 votes

            @illumination: You are right to feel anxious and nervous about this.

            It is outrageous government overreach invading personal privacy like this. A fishing expedition with no justification whatsoever, we are not criminals by default.

            Pisses me off every-time I think about it grrr

        • -3 votes

          I got alot of execution vids in a fb chat im in… guess im screwed lol

        • +1 vote

          What is the point really? An abuser could load the material onto a secure server via an encrypted link then do the reverse to download in Australia/anywhere?

      • +7 votes

        I remember reading about this a while ago when they were bringing this rule in for NZ. They can ask you to unlock your phone so they can go through it, but I thought they had to have a strong suspicion about you. It is very unnerving and a violation of privacy, I wouldn't be happy about it either :\

      • +5 votes

        Its legal for them to copy your phone. Hope you didn't save any important passwords or inappropriate pictures of yourself and partner!

        https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-14/airport-searches-o...

        • +2 votes

          wouldn't that process take ages? Especially these days when people have 1TB phones with another 1TB SD card.

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