Defending Against Porch Pirates: What to Do about Package Thefts

If you’ve had a package stolen when you ordered from Amazon or another online retailer, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, porch pirates — people who steal packages from people’s porches and doorways — are an increasingly common problem in the United States. However, you don’t have to just accept your Amazon package will be stolen every time you place an order.

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    Here is a look at why package theft is a growing problem, what steps you can take if your package goes missing and how to prevent this problem from happening in the future. Learn how to keep your deliveries safe.

    In this article

      An increase in online shopping

      a 2018 poll by Marist College and National Public Radio (NPR), over 75% of Americans say that they shop online, and 25% admit that they do so at least once a month. Another 18% of the population shops online even more frequently.

      In addition, online shopping has long been accounting for a growing portion of the total market share. While it accounted for below 5% of the market in 1990, the Commerce Department has found that number has grown to almost 12% in 2019. That increased percentage may not seem outrightly significant, but 12% of the market share is worth nearly 154.54 billion U.S. dollars.

      Unsurprisingly, in the future, that percentage is projected to become even larger. Recent data by the market research firm Forrester Research predicts that the total amount of dollars spent on online retail sales is expected to surpass $712 billion by 2022. Beyond that, one can only guess at how large the industry will grow.

      How common is it to have a package stolen?

      Even though online shopping looks as though it’s here to stay, shoppers should know that they are taking a risk by placing their orders digitally. From leaving yourself open to the threat of identity theft to receiving an entirely wrong order, there are things that could go wrong from the time you place your order to the time it arrives on your doorstep.

      One problem, in particular, that an increasing percentage of people are facing is porch pirates. As the name suggests, the term “porch pirate” refers to criminals whose goal is to steal packages off of your front porch. Despite the colorful descriptor, stolen packages are becoming increasingly common in neighborhoods across the country.

      According to a recent survey by the Illinois-based packing solutions company, Shorr Packaging Corp., nearly one in four adults in the United States report that they have had a stolen package. While the problem does seem to get worse over the winter holidays, it happens all year long. In New York City alone, the New York Times reports that 90,000 packages go missing every day.

      What to do if your package was stolen

      If you think you’ve had a package stolen from you, there are a few things that you can do about it. It’s normal to panic a little bit if you think you’ve had your Amazon package stolen, but take these steps before you worry.

      Look around for it

      It may sound obvious, but if the tracking information says your package has been delivered and you don’t see it sitting on your front porch, look around for it before you do anything else.

      The UPS website advises that their drivers may leave your packages in alternative locations to protect them from weather or theft. It advises checking “back porches, bushes, garages, grills, or other places where it might be hidden from view”.

      You may also want to check with your neighbors to verify that the package wasn’t mistakenly delivered to the wrong address.

      Check your home security footage

      Once you’ve looked elsewhere, this is a good time to put any home security features you have to use. The security footage will tell you if your package was stolen or if you need to check an alternative hiding spot.

      Contact the retailer

      While every company will have different policies regarding stolen packages, you can typically expect to either be offered a replacement or given a refund. For example, Amazon covers most of its packages with its “A-to-Z” Guarantee Protection. However, if you’ve made the purchase through one of the company’s affiliated sellers, you may be required to contact them first.

      However, even if the company declines to replace or refund your purchase, there are still steps you can take to try to be reimbursed.

      File a claim with the shipping company

      If the retailer tries to pin responsibility for the missing package onto the shipping company, your best bet is to file a claim with the shipping company directly. Luckily, UPS, FedEx and USPS all have online processes that you can use to report your missing item. However, be aware that you might be required to wait a few days for the item to arrive first.

      Call your credit card company

      Many credit card companies offer purchase protection for stolen packages, provided that you’ve used their card to make the purchase. Check the card issuer’s website for specific instructions on how to file a claim.

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      Make a homeowners insurance claim for high-value items

      If the stolen package is worth more than the deductible on your homeowners insurance, consider filing a claim. However, your insurance company might raise your premium as a result of the incident.

      How to prevent porch pirates in the future

      There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of having someone steal your packages.

      Accept deliveries in-person

      Accepting deliveries in-person is the most surefire way to ensure that your packages always reach their destination. Tell your shipping company that you require a signature for delivery or send your packages to an address where you know someone will be home.

      Send packages to an alternative location

      If you can’t guarantee an in-person delivery, the next best thing is to send your packages to an alternative location. Some grocery stores and malls offer Amazon lockers. Alternatively, you can also pick up your package directly at your UPS or FedEx location.

      Some workplaces will allow you to have your packages delivered there, but ask management or the office administrator before you put your office as your delivery address. You could also have your packages delivered to a friend or family member who lives nearby and are home during delivery times.

      Get helpful technology

      Some technology can help protect your packages. For example, a video doorbell can send you alerts when someone approaches your door so you know to swing by your house on your lunch break or ask a neighbor to grab the package. Some video doorbells even let you communicate with the delivery person so you can suggest a safer place for them to put your package.

      If you find your Amazon package stolen when you get home, the video evidence might also help law enforcement find the thief.

      Insure your packages

      Last but not least, if the item that you’ve ordered is expensive, you may want to consider insuring the package. Insurance is usually available either through the retailer or the delivery service.