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How to Battle Porch Pirates…

Online shopping is on the rise, and the resulting sea of package deliveries has tempted thieves coined “porch pirates.” The Department of Commerce reported that online shopping consisted of 10% of all retail sales in the U.S. (Q1 2019). Package delivery is more popular than ever, and so is the resulting property theft – in a Wakefield Research study commissioned by Comcast, one in four people reported being a victim of package theft.

Package delivery itself has become unpredictable — your package could be dropped off by a variety of couriers (Amazon, DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS), and at all hours of the day. It can be hard to keep track and time your schedule to be home for a delivery.

For the package thief, it can be quite the gamble to snag someone’s property. It doesn’t always pay off, as a Florida woman learned when caught on camera allegedly swiping a package full of worms for a pet bearded dragon. And while some people have gotten quite creative by exacting vengeance with glitter bombs disguised as packages, we’re here to offer some practical ways to help ensure your packages are safe.

Customize your delivery

Once your item has shipped, you can usually use tracking numbers to find the delivery service and customize some details about your delivery. You can change the scheduled delivery time to when you know you’ll be home to receive the package. With UPS and FedEx, you can also request the package be delivered to its nearby postal store or some local grocery and corner stores will host package outposts.

Amazon’s innovated their delivery options too. Amazon Key is a smart lock program that also allows Amazon deliveries to be made inside your home. The delivery driver will arrive within a four-hour window, knock, then request to unlock your door with their scanner. Amazon will verify that the package matches the address and that the driver is near the door. When the door is unlocked, an Amazon Cloud Cam (part of the Amazon Key program) will turn on a live feed, the delivery person leaves the packages, and locks your door again. You’ll receive notifications at every step and can tune in to the whole process on your app, but if that feels a bit too invasive, there is also an Amazon Key for Garage and Key for Car. Your car must be in a publicly accessible space, and at this time works with only a handful of specific car models and years.

Lock it up

If your home is particularly vulnerable to package theft, you may consider shipping your packages to a separate locker. P.O. boxes are more secure than a porch and are accessible 24/7 in most locations, and you can rent a one for $10-$20 a month depending on the size.

For Amazon deliveries, you can opt to have your package left in a local Amazon Locker. Typically these self-serve lockers are located near grocery stores. The only downside is if you don’t pick up your item from the locker within three days, it’ll be removed and you’ll be refunded.

Install some security

While not always a deterrent for the brazen thief, installing a home security system and camera can be a significant tool. If you aren’t interested in a full alarm system, we’d recommend adding a one-off doorbell camera to your home. The camera will alert you when someone is at your door, whether it’s the delivery person or a porch pirate. This kind of insight will keep you constantly informed and enable you to take action. If a package is delivered but you aren’t home, you can ask a neighbor to pick it up for your or swing by on a lunch break. And if your camera catches someone stealing your package, the video feed could serve as important evidence to help with insurance claims, police investigations, and as a general community warning.

Communicate with your community

Getting to know your neighbors and delivery drivers is an easy way to take precautions against package theft. If you know you won’t be around for a package, you could ask a neighbor to look out for it. Similarly, if you can’t find a package, it’s possible a neighbor with a similar address accidentally received it.

Letting your delivery drivers know about preferred places to put packages is preventative too. Whether that’s behind a bush, in your garage, on your back porch, or even inside the grill. They likely have some insight into preventing package theft, and developing a relationship with regular delivery employees will make it easier to coordinate.

Steps to take if your package is stolen

  • If you happen to have video camera footage, download and save it. Some security systems will only store footage for a certain amount of time (as short as 24 hours), and you’ll want to be able to transfer any video evidence.
  • Contact the police. Filing a police report is always a good idea if your property has been stolen. Even if they can’t solve your particular case, the information could aid future investigations. Having it on record could prove useful if it happens to you again, or if they catch the same thief stealing from someone else. Filing a report also helps keep the authorities informed about their community and may lend necessary data for future action communities, resources, and initiatives.
  • Post to community resources like Nextdoor or neighborhood Facebook groups. You may not be the only victim in the neighborhood and there’s a fair chance someone else has seen the thief around. With the investigative powers of social media users these days, many small cases like this are solved with the help of social networks. If anything, you can issue a warning for your neighbors to be extra vigilant.
  • Reach out to retailers and couriers. Depending on the item, seller, and delivery company, you may be issued a refund or replacement item. Reach out to the delivery company (like UPS, FedEx), and the retailer to report the theft. If the product was expensive enough, it could warrant filing a claim with your insurance company. Amazon is most likely to refund or reissue the item, especially if there was a falsity reported in the delivery, like “handed directly to the customer” and wasn’t.

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