Porch Pirates on the Prowl This Holiday Season: Here’s How to Outsmart Them

A thief steals packages recently delivered

Your package tracking app reports, “Delivered,” yet there’s no trace of the package by the front door. Has your parcel fallen prey to porch pirates? You’re not alone. According to a survey by C+R Research, about 14% of Americans have had packages stolen by the now-infamous porch pirates.

As consumers prepare their homes for the holidays, porch piracy poses an unfortunate threat to both online orders and the Christmas spirit. Many families look forward to decorating their homes with lights and inflatables, dressing up their trees with ornaments, and hiding gifts under the branches.

According to C+R Research, 22% of households have had two packages stolen, while 11% lost three or more packages to these scallywag’s. That amounts to millions of thefts nationwide when more people than ever are relying on e-commerce for holiday gifts and necessities.

U.S. Cities With Highest Parcel Theft

The risk of porch piracy isn’t equal everywhere. An analysis of FBI crime statistics by Safewise found the highest rates of package theft happen in larger, more densely populated metropolitan areas.

Seattle has the dubious honor of being number one, with 6.1 package thefts per 1,000 people. Other cities topping the list included San Francisco (5.9), Portland (5.6), and Los Angeles (4.9).

Rural areas tend to see lower incidences of porch piracy. The lowest rates were in locations like Rapid City, South Dakota (0.2 thefts per 1,000) and Bismarck, North Dakota (0.3).

Wherever they happen, these thefts collectively add up to substantial financial losses. On average, each stolen package is valued at around $112.30. The most commonly stolen packages are from Amazon, containing clothing, followed by books, toys, health/ personal care products, and groceries.

What Attracts Porch Pirates

What attracts the attention of porch pirates most? According to Brendan Heegan, CEO of Boxzooka, a leading fulfillment company, the top factor is flashy branding on packaging.

“The number one thing that draws thieves is big and colorful logos or labels on the outside of boxes and mailers,” says Heegan. As a company that works with retailers to enhance supply chain and warehousing, Boxzooka has insight into what makes parcels enticing targets.

Heegan’s advice? “Use generic outer shipping packaging to cover up any branding. Make the shipment look as boring and unappealing as possible to thieves.” Concealing prominent logos and labels helps prevent deliveries from standing out and catching the eye of opportunistic criminals on the prowl.

10 Ways to Outsmart Porch Pirates

Consumers must take precautions to ensure their preparations and presents are not ruined by theft. 

  • Opt for delivery to your workplace. Fewer packages sitting unattended at home means fewer opportunities for thieves. Consider asking neighbors if packages can be delivered to their homes if you know you won’t be home.
  • Require a signature for delivery so packages aren’t just left on the porch. However, requiring signatures can delay delivery if you’re not home.
  • Invest in a doorbell camera or outdoor security camera so any theft can be captured on video. Popular brands like Ring and Nest are relatively inexpensive deterrents. Consider multiple cameras covering multiple angles for complete protection.
  • Use a secure parcel drop box. Products like Loxx Boxx bolted to the home provide a safe space for couriers to leave deliveries out of sight from thieves.
  • Opt for the added security of Amazon Lockers or UPS Access Points for your packages. The use of these lockers is often free with their delivery services. If these aren’t nearby, explore having deliveries sent to your local grocery or pharmacy for a secure alternative.
  • Sign up for carrier text or email alerts so you know the exact delivery time and can try to be home. Work from home or have a friend pick up packages if you can’t be there.
  • Consider installing motion-activated lights around the perimeter of your home. Bright lights can scare off thieves looking to sneak up under the cover of darkness.
  • Fill out a vacation hold with your local post office so packages don’t accumulate if you’re away. Ask neighbors to keep an eye out and secure any deliveries as well.
  • Buy insurance when ordering more expensive items online. Look for the insurance offered by the vendor or delivery service, which may cost a few extra dollars. 
  • Buy online, pick up in-store. For more expensive items, collecting your item personally from the store may be the best method to avoid porch piracy.

What To Do if Your Parcel Is Stolen

If you become a victim of porch piracy, there are important steps to take.

  • Contact the delivery company immediately to report the theft and file a claim. Major carriers like UPS and FedEx offer insurance for lost or stolen packages.
  • File a police report. While packages may be a low priority, having a record of the theft could help if the criminal is caught. It may also qualify you for reimbursement from your renters’ or homeowners’ insurance.
  • Check with neighbors to find out if the package was mistakenly delivered to the wrong address. Thieves often target entire blocks.
  • Monitor local buy/sell sites and Craigslist in case the stolen goods are being resold locally. Collect evidence to provide to police.
  • Consider installing security cameras around the home as a preventative measure going forward. Video doorbells and outdoor cameras have helped identify culprits in many package theft cases.

Taking prompt action is key to recovering lost items or getting reimbursed when falling victim to a porch pirate’s crimes. Remaining vigilant is the best ongoing deterrent against this type of theft.

As online shopping booms, so do criminals’ attempts to steal unattended deliveries. Being vigilant and using common-sense security measures can help ensure packages arrive safely this holiday season.

By Tom Behnke

Also published on Media Decision.

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