Online retail sales have increased steadily all over the world as more and more communities have access to the internet. Many forecasters had proclaimed the death of retail in favor of online shopping even before the pandemic began.
In the U.S., e-commerce sales have grown consistently over the past ten years, with only one sharp spike in 2020 during the most challenging time of the pandemic. However, even with that spike, online sales for the first quarter of 2021 were up by 7.7% compared to the quarter before, according to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
With online shopping expanding, there are new opportunities for porch pirates to steal packages. At the end of 2020, we conducted a survey to gain insight into the public’s perception of this kind of crime. We found that 1 in 4 Americans weren’t planning on taking steps to prevent home burglaries, even when traveling for the holidays. In our most recent survey, that number increased to 1 in 3.
On the other hand, 39.6% of respondents reported package theft as a concern for purchasing online. At first glance, this may seem like a contradiction. However, only 8.7% of our respondents said that they had experienced package theft. This fortunate lack of incidents may be why many are concerned but not concerned enough to take steps toward their safety.
However, just because many haven’t experienced a difficult situation with porch pirates doesn’t mean that the public shouldn’t be cautious. After surveying over 1,000 Americans, ValuePenguin found that “nearly 1 in 5 consumers have been victims of porch piracy amid the coronavirus crisis,” and about 30% of the victims didn’t get all their money back. Finder conducted a similar survey at the end of 2020, and found that “3% of Americans surveyed admitted to having stolen a package in the last 12 months.”
Porch piracy is more than an inconvenience — it’s a safety issue. While a home security system isn’t the only option to help homeowners and renters protect their valuables, it’s imperative to have a plan in place. You can start taking action today with these tools and tips.
Best tools and tech to protect your packages
These devices and tools can help keep your deliveries safe. They may even help you catch the culprit in the event of a grab-and-run.
- Outdoor security cameras. For maximum theft deterrence, make sure your outdoor security cameras are highly visible and clearly pointed at the package drop-off area. If you have cameras or a home security system, make sure that you have access to mobile alerts in real-time.
- Video doorbells. Video doorbells are more inconspicuous than security cameras, so they aren’t as effective as theft deterrents. However, they have perks that could still make them a good choice for your home, such as motion activation, easy installation, multifunctional features, and a unique vantage point that’s more likely to catch a thief’s identity than an overhead camera.
- Home security window and yard signs. Signs advertising your home security system could be enough to scare off a thief. If you’re still saving up for a system, consider posting faux signs. It’s also possible to purchase used “real” security signs online. It’s no substitute for an actual security system, but many porch pirates aren’t highly refined thieves. They’re simply looking for a quick way to make money and an adrenaline rush.
- Package lockboxes. These can be installed near or in conjunction with your mailbox. While even a non-locking parcel box prevents theft by concealing your deliveries from the street, choose a lockable container for maximum security. Some lockbox styles, such as the Elephantrunk Dropbox, have a slot for easy drop-offs but require a key for retrieval. With boxes that remain locked, USPS will work with you to ensure your delivery person has access. You must also communicate delivery instructions to FedEx and UPS drivers.
- Use an Amazon Locker.
:If you purchase from Amazon, you can use an Amazon Locker at one of their many locations across the U.S. It’s easy — all you’ll need to do is select a locker at checkout for shipping. There’s no fee, and when your package is ready, you’ll get a passcode that you can use to retrieve it.
Package theft protection basics
Remember that many thieves are opportunists. They're on the hunt for easy targets. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to prevent package theft is not to allow packages to sit outside for too long. These measures can help:
- Have your packages delivered elsewhere, such as your place of employment, an Amazon delivery site, P.O. box, or FedEx/UPS location. It’s well worth the minor inconvenience to ensure your packages are safe.
- Request that deliveries require a signature. With carriers like FedEx or UPS, you can often set this preference using your customer account, even if the package is already on its way. In other cases, such as USPS deliveries, you will need to arrange for a signature ahead of time.
- Subscribe to delivery alerts. All of the major delivery services offer some kind of notification service for package updates. Opt in to receive the most up-to-date information available.
- Keep the area around your front porch clear and visible. This burglary prevention tip is often shared by police officers. Thieves want to be able to get to and from your doorstep undetected. When they’re likely to be seen, they’re more likely to choose another target.
- Request nondescript packaging. When possible, ask senders not to announce where the package is coming from, especially if it’s from a high-end store. Sometimes this is possible through requesting a gift shipping option. Check the box labeled “Gift” to ensure your package comes in a plain box.
What to do if you have a package stolen
If you suspect your package has been stolen, here are some next steps you can take:
- Make sure the package has been marked as “Delivered.” First, make sure your package has been marked as “Delivered.” If you opted into package alerts, check your email or texts to see if you’ve received a notification. If not, check your tracking updates online.
- If the package hasn’t been marked as “Delivered,” you can wait longer or contact the shipping company. If it has been marked as “Delivered,” follow these next steps.
- If you have a video doorbell or security camera, check the footage. Check your video doorbell or security camera footage to see if anyone has stolen your package. If you’re able to review the footage for 24 hours or more, look for moments of activity. If someone did steal your package, notify the local police. They may be able to assist further.
- Contact the retailer. Check with the retailer to find out what their policies are on lost or stolen packages. They may be able to replace the item or provide a refund. Please note that some retailers may handle lost or stolen packages on a case-by-case basis.
- Contact the carrier. Some carriers deny responsibility once a package has been delivered. In this case, there are still other options you can pursue, like filing a claim or submitting a mail search request. The United States Postal Service allows you to file a claim, submit a Help Request Form, a Mail Search Request, and more. FedEx has a Delivery Manager service that allows you to track and redirect packages if needed.
- File a claim with your credit card company. If you purchased your item with a credit card, check and see if you have any package protection benefits. Your credit card company may be able to replace or reimburse you for your lost package. Make sure to do this in the next 120 days after the date of purchase.
- File a police report. By filing a police report, you can help others in your community combat package theft. Let your local police department know that you think your package has been stolen as soon as possible. By sharing this information early, the police or your neighbors might be able to help you locate the package.