6 Steps to Avoid Package Theft

packages on front porch tempting a thief

Call them "porch pirates" or simply call them thieves, but whatever you call these criminals, they're more active than ever with so many Americans shopping online this year. According to a Value Penguin survey, nearly 1 out of 5 consumers have become victims of package theft during the coronavirus pandemic, with 18% reporting they've had a package stolen from them since March. Forty three percent of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they've had delivered packages stolen in the past.  And sadly, 30% of these victims didn't get all of their money back from the theft, suffering an average loss of $106.

If thieves are active in your neighborhood this year, here are some strategies to thwart them from stealing your packages:

1. Sign Up for Shipping Alerts and Order Tracking.

Major carriers — everyone from the USPS and UPS to FedEx and DHL Express — offer shipping alerts for customers so you know when your package was shipped, where it is en route to your home or business, and when it has been delivered. On top of this, most major retailers allow customers to track their orders online. Take advantage of these free services; if you know a package is going to be delivered on a certain day, you can make plans to be available to accept it. Many systems will also let you designate a day that's more convenient for deliveries. That is, if you know you're going to be at work on Thursday, you can tell the retailer to deliver on Saturday, when you will be at home. 

2. Require Signatures for Deliveries.

Many retailers will insist on a signature for a high-value delivery, like a computer or gaming console, but you can also request that an item not be delivered unless someone signs for it. This can add a layer of inconvenience if no one is around to sign for the package -- you'll need to arrange another time for the package to be delivered. However it beats having it stolen and then dealing with a lengthy claims process with the retailer.

3. Have Packages Delivered to a More Secure Location.

Online retailers that have brick-and-mortar locations usually give you the option of having your order shipped to one of their stores. An added benefit is that you may save on shipping costs (they'll ship for free to their own locations). Amazon.com orders can be delivered to a secure locker near your home. You just have to give up some convenience of having packages delivered to your doorstep. Another suggestion is to have packages shipped to a family member or friend who'll be around to accept the deliveries. 

4. Install Security Cameras.

If you want to avoid driving to a store or a locker to pick up your packages, installing security cameras around your home may be a good option for you. It won't necessarily prevent theft, but it can deter it. And depending on the camera system you use, you'll have a record of everyone coming onto your property, as well as leaving, which can be helpful in letting you know when a package has been delivered, as well as recording anyone who tries to run off with it. We have a camera system set up so that we get an alert on our phone whenever there's any activity on our front doorstep. We can use the app on our phones to thank the delivery person or, if need be, shoo away a nosy squirrel. We even have the ability also ask someone acting suspiciously what they're doing on our front porch! 

5. Upgrade your mailbox.

A locking mailbox can be a smart investment if you not only worry about the theft of packages, but if you want to ensure your mail remains safe, too. The only way anything can get out of the box is with a key. You can even get mailboxes big enough to hold small packages. However, since mail can only be retrieved with a key, you often cannot use it to send out mail i.e. by putting up a red flag for the carrier. Locking mailboxes can also be pricey, but if you're sick of having your mail and packages stolen, the cost may be worth it. 

6. Start a neighborhood watch.

If package theft is rampant in your neighborhood, talk to your neighbors and organize a watch group. This is what our neighbors did when packages started disappearing from our doorsteps. We watch out for each other and when we're not going to be around, we let these trusted people know. We retrieve packages for each other and keep them safe until they return

Because I have a dog that's very territorial and barky, we think this has deterred package theft at our house. But our neighbor next door has had numerous packages stolen, until we did two things: started accepting his package deliveries when he was out of town and pointing our security cameras toward his property so that a potential thief will think twice about stealing anything. Since our neighborhood watch commenced, he hasn't lost a package.

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About Author

Diana Burrell
Diana Burrell

Diana Burrell is the marketing communications director at Hanscom FCU. She has a background in magazine journalism, as well as marketing, advertising, and public relations, and has authored over a dozen books. You can reach her at dburrell@hfcu.org.

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