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Are Package Thefts on the Rise Thanks to COVID-19?

With the majority of the world heading into lockdown in early 2020, online shopping skyrocketed. Brick-and-mortar stores largely closed, leaving people to shop online from the comfort of their home, though, likely out of boredom or sadness connected to COVID-19. Forbes reported that online retailers saw, on average, more than 60% Year over Year growth in sales from April 2019 to April 2020, due to COVID-19. 

The rise of online shopping, though, means that there are a lot of packages landing on porches everywhere, and unfortunately that means there are more packages for porch pirates to snatch up. We’ll take a look at the trend of package thefts due to COVID-19 and break down what you can do about it, with the help of two security experts.

What Are Porch Pirates?

Porch pirate is just a slang term for people who steal packages from people’s porches. You’ve probably seen these videos all over the internet — thanks to homeowners having video cameras pointed at their front doors. These thieves commonly have a habit of swiping packages from porches, rather than do it one and stop (unless they’re caught). Sometimes people work in teams to steal packages, with one person running to the porch and the other driving the getaway car.

Porch pirates have long been an issue. Packages were stolen from homes long before COVID-19, and a report by C+R from 2019 said that 44% of people have a package delivered at least once per week and 36% of people had a package stolen from their front porches. Of people who had packages stolen, 56% of them said it happened just one time, but 22% of people had it happen twice.  

Many people only took action by contacting the store or delivery service to complain about the missing package, rather than calling the police, but if you don’t have a security system, it’s hard to know exactly what happened to the package in the first place. It’s possible that not everyone realizes that a porch pirate is the reason a package is missing, which makes security on your front porch a very good idea. 

Read: Best Cheap Video Doorbell Cameras

The Rise of Package Thefts

It’s been a snowball effect leading up to package thefts. COVID-19 took over, forcing people into lockdown and forcing many stores to close. This led to people shopping online more. Then the CDC recommended all deliveries be made contact-free, which led to many delivery drivers dropping packages on porches more than usual. Unattended packages are obviously easier to swipe, and that’s exactly what’s been happening. 

The FTC released a report in July citing the rise in complaints related to online shopping as well. More than 18,000 complaints were filed for items that were ordered but never received, and though it’s safe to assume not every single complaint was related to package theft, security experts assume that a fair few of them were a result of porch pirates. “The porch pirates are increasing, due to the fact that online shopping is so common nowadays,” said Daniel Velez, founder and CEO of Home Security. Velez noted, though, that there are ways to combat porch pirates. Some ideas for ways you can keep your packages more secure include:

  • Using a video doorbell or security camera: Velez said, “With the video doorbells, you will receive alerts immediately when a person is close to your door, so you can interact with the person and scare the possible porch pirate away.” He added that in a worst case scenario, these videos can help you if you have to call the police on a porch pirate.   
  • Schedule packages to arrive when you’re home: If you’re not still in lockdown, it’s important to try to schedule deliveries for when you know you can receive them immediately, according to Sterling R. Morris, editor of Prevent Package Theft.
  • Have the packages delivered to a more secure area: Morris also suggested having packages delivered elsewhere if security remains a concern. Maybe it’s your office or to your neighbors who are always home.
  • Provide delivery instructions: Give delivery people the most information possible for making a delivery so that your package ends up in a more secure location. Do you have a back porch a delivery person can easily access that’s more secure? Do you have a gate they can come inside to place a delivery more securely? Do you have a large potted plant on the porch that a small package can be tucked behind? All of these could be options for lowering the risk of a delivery being stolen.

Companies Are Trying to Help, Too

Delivery companies especially are doing what they can to help prevent package theft. Many delivery drivers are hiding packages on porches (if they can) or making sure to knock or ring the doorbell before leaving the package on the porch. There isn’t a whole lot they can do to prevent a porch pirate, but notifying you sufficiently is key. 

Some companies also are providing real-time tracking information on your deliveries. This includes email or text notifications for deliveries scheduled to arrive as well as a follow-up once packages have been dropped off so you know it’s there. These enhanced tracking capabilities keep you up to date on when a delivery is heading your way so you can be prepared to receive it as quickly as possible.  

Final Thoughts

Package theft is an unfortunate side effect of COVID-19, but if you stay on top of your home security, you can lessen the chances of it happening to you. Invest in a security camera for your front porch so that you have evidence in case this does happen to you and make sure you’re hyper-aware of deliveries you’re expecting.

(Photo by C5Media via Getty Images)


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Contributing Writer

Hedy Phillips

Hedy Phillips is a freelance journalist who has covered home security, safety, and other topics for Safety.com, MSN, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan, and InStyle.