Can You Prevent Porch Pirates From Stealing Your Packages?
How to keep your online orders from falling into thieves’ hands.
Few things can match the excitement and ease of receiving a package delivered to your front step.
That is, until a stranger snags the package off your porch before you get home.
As online buying and package delivery becomes the norm for retail shopping, delivery theft before consumers retrieve their items from the porch is a growing problem for Americans.
In November 2017, InsuranceQuotes released a study revealing that 25.9 million Americans have had a package delivery stolen from their front porch or doorstep – and that’s just during the holiday season. And that’s up from 23.5 million porch thefts during the holidays in 2015.
The holidays are the biggest season for deliveries, of course. The 2 1/2 weeks before Christmas see package deliveries double, if not more, says Georgianna Oliver, founder of Package Concierge, a company that provides package receipt systems for apartment buildings.
Part of the problem is that it’s so hard to guarantee a package is safe once it’s delivered. While it’s possible to insure a piece of mail or package through the delivery service, once the package reaches your doorstep the coverage ends, as the insurance is aimed at covering any physical damage that may take place in transit.
Even when dropped off at an apartment building, the reception desk can easily get overwhelmed, and packages will go missing before the right resident can claim her parcel.
To combat the issue, delivery services, retailers and startups are working to create alternatives to traditional home delivery and keep thieves from snagging gifts.
UPS, for example, has created the My Choice program, which allows customers to receive updates on their package and view estimated delivery times and even change the delivery address prior to scheduled drop-off to keep it from sitting outside. If delivering to your office or a friend’s house aren’t better options to protect your package, UPS Access Point is another free feature that allows customers to opt for delivery at a local public location, rather than at home. Instead of having your package sit out on your porch all afternoon, you can stop at the drop box at the local drugstore or bank on your way home. It appears people are taking advantage of the elevated control, too. UPS reports My Choice has been used to deliver more than 1 billion packages since its creation in 2011.
“We try to partner with local businesses in the community, where people are likely to go anyway,” says Dawn Wotapka, a UPS spokeswoman.
For apartment and condo communities, Package Concierge has been working with property management companies to create a better system for package deliveries since 2012. Rather than having packages delivered to the front desk, they’ll be deposited into Package Concierge lockers, which are often installed near the resident mailboxes.
Residents are notified when they have a package delivered, and use the app or an email code to unlock the right locker. “Nothing’s ever lost – we take a dated, time-stamped photo of every delivery and every retrieval,” Oliver says.
The best thing you can do to protect your packages is be proactive – especially when you know you’ll be out of town when a package arrives. The U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx and any other delivery courier has the ability to hold your package at a nearby facility.
If your delivery is kept elsewhere, you “don’t have to be worried when you’re out of town, ‘Is my package sitting out?'” Wotapka says. Not to mention, more ambitious thieves who may target your house for a break-in won’t see proof that you’re not home to pick up your mail.
Keeping your packages as safe and secure as possible is simply a matter of figuring out a system that works best for you. Here are six options to better protect your packages from porch pirates.
Provide some porch coverage. Porch pirates are most likely to strike when they see a package sitting out in the open. If they can’t see a package from the street, they’re far less likely to walk up to see what they can grab. Large planters, a thick column or solid furniture that provides plenty of space to obscure a package from the edge of your property can help cut down on package theft. A note or request to the courier to leave the package at the back door could also keep it from being seen.
Get a camera. Security cameras and video doorbells can get pretty good images of people who come onto your doorstep. A smart thief will stay away from a porch that’s filming them, but those that don’t will give you a nice image to send to the police. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the package back, but there’s a decent chance the thief will be caught.
Have packages delivered to your office. You may be able to set your shipping address to your workplace and receive them in the mailroom there. However, not all employers will be amenable to having your personal shipments sent to the office, or at least not if you have multiple packages arriving every week. Be sure to check with your boss or human resources before you order all your holiday gifts to the office mailroom.
Let deliveries in. Some delivery services, like Amazon Key, have special offerings that make it so the courier can alert the service they’re ready to drop off your package, which will briefly unlock your door so the package can be left inside. Depending on the service, you’ll need to have a specific type of smart lock that can be accessed remotely, and pets will likely need to be secured to keep them from getting out or potentially harming the delivery person.
Pick it up at a facility. If you miss delivery on a package that requires a signature too many times, it’ll be held at the facility for you to pick up. Especially if the package being sent has valuable items, requesting the package be held at the facility is an option to keep anything from being left on your stoop.
Pick it up in town or at a store. Package Concierge, UPS Access Point and Amazon Locker Delivery all let packages be delivered to a secure location without forcing you to go too far out of your way to retrieve them. Many large online retailers offer free shipping directly to a nearby store, where customers can pick up their items without worrying about package theft.