Sareena Helton was in New Orleans for a conference last weekend when her wallet was stolen from her bag. She was left with nothing but her cell phone, so she thought she might have some trouble catching her flight back to Atlanta with no way to prove her identity.
Helton tells FOX 5 she was so busy with work that she didn't really have a chance to worry about how she would identify herself until she got to to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to fly home. She had an ATM card with her name on it, her business cards, and a police report-- along with a picture of a picture of her passport, which was hard to read.
At the Delta Airlines ticket counter, Helton says the agent looked at her frequent flier account information and gave her a boarding pass, but warned she would need extra time at security. She was also told if she was allowed through there would be extra screening, but it all depended on the situation as to whether or not she'd be allowed to fly.
From there, Helton headed to the TSA security line, where an agent asked her if she had a health insurance card or a check from her checking account. She didn't, so she showed the agent what she did have. At first, she said she was joking when she offered the TSA agent her Facebook profile for ID-- but the agent accepted.
Helton tells FOX 5 the TSA agent seemed to know to look for, checking out her Facebook profile photo, her name, the "about me" section on her page, and her URL. Then, she was allowed to proceed through security, with the stipulation that she would have to be patted down and have her bag searched. She said she was prepared to answer more questions about where she had been in New Orleans, but she wasn't asked.
Helton admits she was surprised-- and thankful-- that it worked, and she able to use Facebook to verify her identity.
"Oh, just that one time I used my Facebook profile picture to get through TSA security," Helton posted on her Facebook page Sunday night, along with a photo of her holding up her phone after making it through the security line.
It might sound strange, but on their website, TSA says they understand that sometimes, a passenger might lose their ID, like Helton did, or leave it at home, and that doesn't necessarily mean you won't be allowed to fly.
"If you are willing to provide additional information, we have other ways to confirm your identity, like using publicly available databases, so you can reach your flight," the website reads.
TSA's website goes on to say that if a passenger is cleared through that process, the passenger may receive additional screening before they are able to enter a screening checkpoint or board a plane.
As for her wallet, Helton still hasn't gotten it back, but she's hopeful it'll turn up.