Package theft is a growing problem across the US. According to one study, over 31 percent of Americans have experienced package theft. That number is expected to rise as consumers continue their love of online shopping and the delivered goods are left on doorsteps or in other vulnerable areas. Many people associate porch pirates with the holiday season, but according to experts, package theft is actually a year-round threat. Learn eight ways to better protect yourself and your important deliveries.
Package Thieves Can Strike Anytime and Anywhere
Why does package theft continue to grow at such a rampant rate? Perhaps the statistics tell the story best. According to surveys:
- The average value of a stolen package is $140, which could make it worth the risk for an eager thief.
- Only around 11 percent of package thieves have been caught, according to survey respondents who were victims of the crime.
Neither cities nor rural areas are immune to the problem. The most popular metro areas for porch pirates are reportedly: the greater San Francisco metro area, Salt Lake City, UT, Portland, OR, Baltimore, MD, and Seattle-Tacoma, WA. But cities aren’t the only places where package thieves operate, as one survey showed that rural residents in North Dakota, Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Arkansas also reported high numbers of stolen packages. (The FBI reportedly doesn’t track nationwide statistics on package theft.)
8 Ways to Better Protect Your Packages from Porch Pirates
Fortunately, there are some ways to keep package thieves at bay, many of them thanks in part to technological advances in terms of tracking, delivery, and even home video surveillance. Here are eight considerations for better protecting your packages.
- Sign up for tracking notifications - The US Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, and UPS all offer services that enable you to track packages right up to your doorstep. With the USPS Informed Delivery app, you can get email or text updates and can enter special delivery instructions for the mail carrier if you won't be home when the package is scheduled to arrive. UPS’s My Choice program and FedEx's Delivery Manager offer similar tracking options. Amazon, which has developed its own shipping and logistics capabilities and currently handles nearly 50 percent of its own deliveries, also provides tracking options.
- Ship to a secure location for pick-up - There are several delivery options to consider in order to safely have packages stored for later pick-up. FedEx will hold packages at a local FedEx Office or send them to one of their partner pick-up locations that include popular pharmacies and grocery stores. UPS also provides alternate delivery options, including UPS Stores and partner locations such as pharmacies, dry cleaners, and convenience stores. Amazon offers Amazon Locker, in which delivered items are placed in a coded locker at one of their pick-up locations, including Whole Foods stores. In addition, retailers sometimes offer the option to send items to the retailer’s brick and mortar store for pickup, which may also save money on shipping fees.
- Get a delivery lockbox for your home - Instead of having deliveries left unsecured on your porch, consider having them delivered to a storage lockbox that is specifically designed for receiving packages. Delivery-specific lockboxes can typically be opened using an access code that you provide to the delivery person, and then it automatically locks after an item is placed inside.
- Use internet-enabled security cameras - Visible home security cameras may help deter thieves from stealing packages. Several such services can be installed both inside and outside to monitor your home and property and record any activity.
- Send packages to a work address or a neighbor - Some employers allow employees to receive personal packages at work, but check with your workplace first as it can create extra work for receptionists and mailrooms and cause storage concerns. Alternatively, if you have friends, family members, or a neighbor who is often home to receive packages in person, consider asking to use their address—and their goodwill—to accept deliveries on your behalf.
- Sign up to allow Amazon to place packages inside your home, garage, or car - Amazon has been exploring options for more secure package delivery in recent years. Their service Amazon Key currently offers customers in some areas the option to have packages placed inside their home, garage, or car.
- Consider purchasing additional package protection - For particularly valuable packages, consider purchasing extra coverage from the shipper. USPS, UPS, and FedEx all allow customers to purchase additional package protection.
- Keep your property well lit - Some porch pirates wait until dark to strike, so it’s common sense that a home that looks occupied and has a well-lit outdoor area may be enough to cause a thief to look elsewhere. It’s a good idea to keep your sidewalk and porch brightly lit and have some lights on inside the home, both of which are possible using motion detectors and smartphone applications, even if you aren’t at home.
What to Do If You Suspect a Stolen Package
- Notify the shipper - You can find guidelines from the commonly used shipping companies regarding what to do if a package goes missing. USPS requests that customers fill out a Find Missing Mail search. UPS provides a Start a Claim web page, and FedEx provides an online form to File a Claim. Amazon provides its customers a Where's My Stuff page.
- Contact the retailer - Each retailer will likely have a different policy on how to handle package theft, but it is likely still worth contacting them in case they will replace the lost or stolen item.
- Check your credit card benefits - Many credit cards have purchase protection for lost or stolen items, and if your purchase was made with a credit card, you may be able to make a claim with the credit card issuer or request a chargeback. Alternatively, you may be able to collect from your homeowners or renters insurance, depending on the value of the item as well as your deductible.
- File a police report - It’s a good idea to do this quickly, as you will likely need a police report if you’re making a claim with a retailer, a shipper, a credit card company, or an insurance company.