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How Safe Are You From Holiday Package Theft?

Taylor Leamey

Feature Writer

10 min. read

‘Tis the season for porch pirates

While it’s largely considered a luxury for many, online shopping is not always about the best deals or the fact that you can do it in your pajamas at three in the morning. For those who aren’t able to hop in a car or manage the busy walk through the mall, online shopping is more than convenient and enjoyable, it’s their reality. Thanks to online shopping, those who experience limitations in vision, hearing, mobility, or memory now have various avenues that were not previously available to them.

But as the would-be presents pile up on doorsteps, porch pirates are on the prowl for your expertly-picked presents. Particularly active during what is meant to be the most wonderful time of the year, these modern thieves follow delivery trucks and target high-income areas to take advantage of every opportunity. As online shopping steadily grows, thieves continue to get smarter and the rate of package theft continues to rise. This guide provides tips not only to combat porch pirates and what to do if package theft happens to you, but also some fun alternatives that will keep your holidays stress-free. 

In this article

Facts and stats

The fact is, no matter who orders it, more packages than ever before will be delivered to homes this year, which means there are more opportunities than ever before for porch pirates to swoop in and spoil your season. The National Retail Federation predicts a very strong holiday season for 2019, estimating that holiday sales will increase between 3.8% and 4.2% from 2018, which totaled to $701.2 billion for November and December. According to a survey from Internet Retailer and Bizrate Insights, 60% of surveyed consumers intend to spend over half of their holiday budget online, while 80% allot at least a quarter of their spending online. 8% expect to do all of their holiday shopping online. Whether it’s to cut the lines or the ability to shop from the comfort of their home, people plan to shop online for their holiday needs.

Package theft by the numbers

People who have had their packages stolen know the pain and frustration that goes along with it. A survey from Reviews.com revealed that 34% of adults have either had their package stolen or know someone who has. In adults between the ages of 18-34, that rate increased to 45%. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 78% of adults are at least “a little concerned” about being burglarized and their packages being stolen. With so many planning to utilize online options, package theft is a legitimate concern that poses a real issue for shoppers. 

Tools to avoid package theft

Being aware and prepared is the best way to combat package theft. The easiest option is to schedule delivery for when you or a family member is home and able to sign for the package. Alternatively, you can ship your package directly to your office or a friend who works remotely. Delivering your package to a friend or neighbor’s house is a secure way to keep your package safe and it gives you some added time with your friend; it’s a win-win!

Just add a note to Amazon in the “delivery instructions” section of your order and they will gladly hide your package exactly where you want it.

But what do you do if these options don’t work for you? Don’t worry, you’re not out of luck yet! Created by forward thinkers, there is a line of benches and boxes that are available solely to sit on your porch and  hide your packages from view. Just add a note to Amazon in the “delivery instructions” section of your order and they will gladly hide your package exactly where you want it. For carriers like UPS or FedEx, you’ll have to coordinate in advance where you’d like your packages left. If you don’t have room on your porch for hide-away furniture, there are reinforced nylon package bags available that can be secured to your front door or railing. If none of that sounds like you, the various smart options allow you to pick and choose what will work best with your lifestyle. 

Amazon Key

Available for your home, Amazon Key offers Prime members a way to get your packages delivered and out of sight by allowing the courier access to your home. The kit, which costs around $250, includes a smart lock and an indoor security camera. Amazon supplies members with estimated delivery time in advance, so you know when you should expect the package to be delivered. If you are not home, Amazon will grant the courier one-time access to open your door and then automatically relock it when the package is inside. 

Smart Doorbell

With smartphone app connectivity, smart doorbells come equipped with 180-degree cameras to capture your porch and surrounding areas on video. In addition, the high-quality cameras of smart doorbells are motion-activated and designed to record when they detect movement. These cameras are a surefire way to film porch pirates in the act and maybe even grab their plate number for subsequent reporting. 

Package Guard

WiFi enabled, Package Guard is a weighted package sensor that alerts you via text if your packages have been moved. In the event someone does move your package, a loud alarm will sound that can only be turned off through the app. Along with a loud alarm, Package Guard is equipped to send multiple notifications to anyone you select. Also, you don’t have to worry about how much it can handle: This frisbee-shaped device can accommodate up to 400 pounds.

Package Lockers

Though it slightly dampens the extreme convenience online shopping offers, package lockers are an excellent way to keep your packages secure and off-limits to porch pirates. One option available is the Amazon Locker. While it does require a trip to pick up your package from a specific location, Amazon Locker doesn’t require you to drop everything and dash across town. You are able to pick up your package up to 3 business days after delivery. 

Another package locker line is the UPS Access Point Delivery system. Available 24 hours a day, these lockers are completely self-service and easy to use. You can search the lockers by tracking number, InfoNotice® left by the driver or the My Choice® notification that can be found in your email or the app. You then authorize pickup for your package by scanning your driver’s license or government-issued ID barcode or by sending authorization code to your mobile phone.

Boxlock

If you don’t want to worry about making it to the package lockers within the time frame required, you can always invest in your very own locker on your porch. The BoxLock smart padlock is designed to scan your expected packages and unlock your storage box for the courier to place inside. It’s just that easy!

What to do if your package is stolen

You’ve checked your tracking number, once, twice and a third time and it says your package was delivered. But you can’t find it. Before you worry, first look around and make sure your courier didn’t opt to tuck your package away from sight. If it isn’t in any of the usual spots, next check with neighbors or anyone who could have accepted the package while you were away. After all of that, if your package is truly nowhere to be found, you may have to begrudgingly accept you are a victim of package theft.

Your first step is to file a report with the United States Postal Inspection Service. It won’t go very far if there are no witnesses, but the footage from security cameras and smart doorbells are excellent tools to supplement your report. The report you file will be vital if you plan to make an insurance claim on your missing package. Once you have a report on file, you’ll want to then file a missing package claim with the carrier who delivered your package. Each carrier is different and has specific ways of dealing with lost packages.

  AmazonFedExUPSUSPS
Claims-filing windowWithin 90 days of deliveryWithin 60 days of deliveryWait 24 hours after loss to fileWait 7 days after loss to file
ReimbursementUp to $100 in damage; loss-based refunds are case-by-caseOnly if insured
Customer Service1-866-216-10721-800-463-33391-800-742-58771-800-275-8777
File a ClaimFile a ClaimFile a ClaimFile a Claim

Amazon: Perhaps the easiest to deal with, Amazon has a no-questions policy and will either refund or reship your item when you report it missing within 90 days of the estimated delivery date. Amazon covers up to $2,500 purchase price on lost, stolen or damaged goods. 

FedEx: With FedEx, you can file a lost package claim within 60 calendar days from the delivery date. The claim takes about 5-7 business days to resolve. FedEx also offers an easy-to-use Delivery Manager that allows you to track packages, redirect packages, and make hold requests.

UPS: If your package was shipped with UPS, you are required to wait 24 hours before filing a claim. Once 24 hours have passed and your claim has been filed, UPS will investigate to determine if your package was lost or stolen. Once resolved, UPS will issue a refund to the seller.

USPS: Filing a claim with USPS is more involved than any of the other carriers. To start, your package must be missing for 7 days before you are able to even start your claim. In addition, USPS requires the tracking number, sender and recipient addresses, dimensions, and a description of the contents of the package. If your package is insured with USPS and lost, you will be refunded the shipping and insured package costs. Uninsured packages will only be refunded the shipping costs, you will need to contact the seller for anything further.

After a claim has been filed with the carrier, you should contact the seller and ask them to follow up on your package. Feel free to refer them to the police report you filed if any additional evidence is required on their end. While the carrier can determine if your package truly stolen or just delayed, the seller is the one who will refund you or reship your item, so it is always best to contact the seller directly.

Alternatives to traditional gifting

Package theft is abundant. At best, it’s a headache and at worst, it can eat away at the holiday budget you worked so hard to save for. Spending that money on alternatives to physical gifts is one way to ensure that thieves don’t steal your holiday cheer.

Charitable giving

More and more people are finding that dropping the pressure of material goods for gifts makes the holidays that much more special. Donating to a charity is a significant alternative to traditional gifting that helps more than just your family. It’s a great opportunity to talk about what organizations they support and which one they would most like the donation to go towards. 

  • Home For Our Troops is a publicly funded non-profit that’s a great option if you have a veteran on your gift list. 
  • If you are interested in donating in a more tangible way, you can adopt a family for the holidays through numerous national and area-specific programs.
  • You could also contribute to Toys For Tots. Everything from food, household essentials, and toys are welcome and always greatly appreciated.
  • A lesser-known charitable option is the Angel Tree Christmas program, which provides gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated, and who may be feeling a little extra lonesome this holiday season.

Gifting a getaway

Another way to shake things up this year is by gifting an experience. Who doesn’t like adventures? No matter how short or close to home, you can gift your whole family a vacation this year. Everything counts, from a trip to the zoo to a special night out or hot air balloon ride, gifting experiences is a fun way to start family traditions or create lasting memories. 

Subscriptions 

If you still want to give something they can hold in their hands, consider one of the many services and box subscriptions available nowadays. Options like Candy Club or Book of the Month are a great way to hone in on what’s really special about the recipient and send a gift that keeps on giving! You decide how many months you want to delight them with a curated box of their interests. They will thank you for skipping the classic sweater and giving a gift that’s uniquely them. 

Shopping for friends and family can sometimes feel like an unsurpassable challenge, even without the added worry of package theft. These alternatives relieve some of the stress and make sure your gifts are always a welcomed surprise! Don’t let the fear of package theft or getting the wrong thing get the best of you this season, shop to your heart’s desire.