Online shopping is convenient, a bit addicting and can make coming home at the end of the day a little more exciting when there’s something (or many things) waiting for you on your front porch. That is if someone else doesn’t get your packages first.
Each year, millions of Americans are the victims of package theft from so-called “porch pirates,” who are really nothing more than burglars with a trendy name. In fact, according to one study, about one in four Americans have had a package stolen. The holiday season, when people are making their lists and checking them twice, is a particularly busy time for porch pirates, but they can strike anytime of the year, day or night.
Fortunately, there are some things online shoppers can do to thwart the efforts of thieves and increase your home security.
8 ways to keep your packages safe
1. Take advantage of delivery instructions options when ordering online
In many cases, a company will ask if you want to require a signature for delivery. It can be a pain trying to be home to sign for the package delivery, especially if you work outside the home, but it ensures your package won’t be left unattended.
You can also often leave instructions specifying just where to place your packages when you order. For example, you may note that your package should be left by the back door, where it’s not easily seen from the street or at the front desk of your apartment complex if you’re not home. If you do ask a delivery person to place it at the back of your home, ensure that there are no pets around who may feel territorial enough to scare (or worse!) anyone who comes back there.
2. Track your package and sign up for delivery alerts
Most companies allow you to track the delivery of your packages online and receive alerts as they make their way to you. This lets you hone in on the delivery time window better, so you can make sure to scoop up your packages as soon as possible after they’re delivered or have someone else get them for you.
3. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye out
If you’re expecting a home delivery and aren’t likely to be there when it arrives, ask a neighbor to look out for it and grab it if they see it. If you sign up for delivery alerts, you can send let them know as soon as it arrives, then offer to do the same for them sometime.
4. Sign up for BoxLock
BoxLock is a smart padlock that only opens when a delivery driver scans a tracking code on your package and it’s verified that the package is for you. The driver then places your package inside your box, where it’s kept safe until you retrieve it. You can also unlock it via an app on your phone to allow friends or family to safely drop things off when you’re not home.
5. Install a doorbell video camera
A video doorbell helps you keep an eye on your front porch (especially the area right by the front door,) alerts you when someone is there, and records video of anyone who comes calling. Hopefully it’s just the local FedEx driver, but if not – some even have voice features that allow you to talk to the person and perhaps scare them away if necessary. Some doorbell cameras also offer professional monitoring and will alert authorities if they detect anything suspicious. They’re also typically less expensive than security cameras.
6. See if you have an Amazon Locker facility near you
Amazon Locker lets you have your Amazon packages delivered to a locker at a location of your choosing. You receive a pickup code and go pick up your packages when it’s convenient for you. There’s no fee to use the lockers, and you can also use them for returns.
7. Try Amazon Key
Amazon Key allows you to use your phone to unlock your home, garage or car trunk so Amazon delivery drivers can open them and put your packages inside. It can be a bit of a risk giving a stranger access to your home or car, but you do have the security of being able to watch the delivery as it happens via an app on your phone or watch a recording of it later.
You can also use the Key system, which works with a smart lock kit you must purchase separately, to let in pet sitters, kids and anyone else who you want to remotely give access to your home without handing out a physical key.
8. Have your package delivered elsewhere
If you’re rarely home, you may want to have your packages delivered elsewhere. Perhaps you have a relative who lives nearby and is home more frequently, or you can have packages delivered to your office if allowed.
What to do if your package is stolen
If, despite your best efforts, you do find yourself with stolen packages due to porch pirates, there are some things you can do to minimize your loss.
Check your homeowner’s insurance policy
Unfortunately, your homeowner’s insurance won’t help in most cases, unless the value of the item stolen is more than your deductible. If it’s a big-ticket item, however, it’s worth checking with them.
Contact your credit card company
If you purchased the item with a credit card, your credit card company may reimburse you for the cost of stolen items. Check their purchase protection policy.
Contact the seller and carrier
While various retailers have different policies, some may send you a replacement for lost or stolen items. You may also want to contact the carrier that delivered your package (often just the USPS) and file a complaint with them.
File a police report
Even for inexpensive items, filing a police report is important so they can keep track of activity in the area. You may also need the report to file a claim with your credit card company.
The bottom line on keeping your packages safe from “porch pirates”
In a perfect world, we could shop online to our heart’s content and our porches would be safe extensions of our homes on which packages could sit safely indefinitely. In today’s world, however, we have to take precautions and do a bit of planning to keep our packages out of the hands of thieves. So, before you place your next order, stop to think about when and where you want it delivered. Taking a few small steps upfront can save you a lot of stress down the line.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.