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Tips for Preventing Package Theft and Avoiding Porch Pirates

November 19, 2019

The holiday season seems to creep up on us every year. With all that holiday shopping going on, you’ll have plenty of packages delivered to your door. Christmas marks the season of giving, after all. Unfortunately, package theft is prevalent during the holidays.

Even if the postal service did its job, porch pirates could easily snatch your precious packages away. If you are wondering how common package theft is during the holiday season, the answer is very common.

According to Insurance Quotes, 25.8 million Americans (that’s 8% of the population!) have been the victim of a local thief stealing Christmas gifts right off of their porch.

Former NASA engineer Mark Rober found inspiration in the tactics of Home Alone hero Kevin McAllister. He created a decoy package by wrapping cellophane over an Apple HomePod box. It had GPS tracking built into it. That way, he could track the thief’s location with the addition of embedded cell phones that record video.

... and the results were marvelous.

Unfortunately, we all don't have NASA-level engineering chops.

Does that mean there’s nothing else we can do to fight porch pirates? Of course not! 

We'll go over some tips on how to avoid having your packages stolen, and what to do if porch pirates steal one of your packages.

Tips to Avoid Package Theft

Don’t want to experience holiday headaches? Follow these tips to make it nearly impossible for a thief to steal your packages.

1. Get a P.O. Box at Your Local Post Office

You can obtain a P.O. Box at your local post office. There, professionals will safely handle and store your packages.

2. Use Lockers

You’re not the only one who has been thinking about how to keep your packages safe. Major postal companies, retailers, and even convenience stores have gotten in on the business of package security. 

Some even provide lockers for rent. You can get your package delivered to a certain location and pick it up at your leisure. Here are a few companies that offer this service:

3. Set Up Notifications to Track Your Package

Most delivery services offer options for mobile notifications throughout the delivery process. Set them up so you’ll be the first to know when a package is delivered.

That’s a piece of information that even the slickest of package thieves can’t obtain. There’s no way for anyone to steal your package if you’re there to bring it inside right as it arrives at your front door.

4. Install a Security Camera

There are hundreds of home security systems available that are easy to install and offer reliable technology. A visible camera will deter a porch pirate. In the event that your package does get stolen, you have ample evidence for retaliation.

Ring peephole cameras attach to the peephole of your front door and get the job done. They are apartment-friendly as well since they don't require any difficult installations.

5. Get Your Packages Delivered to Your Office

We know that home isn’t quite where your desk is. However, having a package delivered to your office can be just as convenient. If you’re more likely to be at work during delivery hours, why not have it delivered to that address?

6. Require a Signature on Delivery

UPS and FedEx offer signature requirements for peace of mind. Sometimes, the shipper will indicate that they must receive a signature 

However, you don’t need to rely on their decision. You can add delivery protection features yourself. Do note that this will likely require additional fees. Those could add up if you’re receiving a lot of packages, but it's definitely worth it on expensive purchases.

7. Reschedule Delivery or Ask for a Package Hold When on Vacation

UPS and FedEx both offer vacation hold services. FedEx offers 14 days free of charge. UPS offers seven free days of package storage. 

To request a hold from FedEx, simply download their Delivery Management App. To request a hold from UPS, use your UPS InfoNotice number online. 

8. Try Smart Locks

Smart locks allow keyless entry into your home. They allow you to let people in when you’re away. They also allow you to check-in with live view and two-way audio.

For deliveries, this means you can get packages delivered inside of your doorstep, at no charge. This Amazon Smart Lock works with a mobile app that allows you to control all of its features away from home.

However, switching up the lock on your doors will require permission from your landlord. So make sure to get the green light first before looking into this solution.

9. Get a Package Guard

They might look like frisbees, but don’t underestimate a package guard. This smart device sends you notifications when your package has arrived on your porch. This device has an alarm that will sound when someone picks up your package without your permission. 

It may not be as effective as a glitter bomb, but this is a practical and simple approach to deter package theft.

10. Insure Your Packages

If things go bad, package insurance can save you. But before purchasing this extra layer of protection, note that if your package is worth less than $100, it’s likely that you’re already covered. 

UPS and FedEx do this. However, the U.S. Postal Service only provides this low-value coverage on Express Mail items.

If you are receiving something worth over $100, you may want to purchase extra coverage. You'll have to fill out a claim if someone steals your package within 60 days for FedEx and within nine months for UPS.

11. Ask Your Neighbors to Grab Your Packages

Talking to your neighbor might just do the trick at no cost. If you’re out and about most of the time, ask them to keep an eye out for any deliveries. This way, you’ll know someone is keeping your packages safe until you can swing by and grab them.

What Do You Do If Someone Steals Your Package?

In the unfortunate event that your package theft strikes you, there are some steps you should take to resolve the matter. First, make sure to contact the right people.

Contact the Sender

First things first: contact the sender. Often times, companies are sympathetic and have customer service guidelines in place for such mishaps. They may just send over a replacement.

USPS Stolen Packages

If USPS was the delivery service involved in the stolen package, file a claim. You’ll need your tracking number and proof of insurance. You’ll also need proof of the value of the item.

If you have evidence that someone stole the package, submit any footage. You’re not likely to get a refund from USPS, which is why asking the seller for a replacement is your best bet.

UPS Stolen Packages

UPS has different procedures for different types of orders. For domestic shipping, you’ve got to be patient. You’ll need to wait out a 24-hour period before filing a claim. 

For international shipping, you won’t be able to file a claim. UPS will investigate the claim you filed. However, there are no guarantees of finding a culprit or receiving a refund.

Amazon Stolen Packages

If Amazon’s tracking system shows your package as delivered, but it’s not anywhere to be found, you can get a refund easily. You have to wait 36 hours to contact Amazon. 

If your package is late, you’ll get a credit for the inconvenience. Even with third-party sellers, they handle the details so you don’t have to. 

FedEx Stolen Packages

FedEx has an online portal for filing lost packages. They are, just like their delivery services, quick to resolve lost package claims. That is, if you file within 60 calendar days and have the details of the order on hand. 

File a Police Report

If you’re certain someone stole your package, filing a police report is important. This isn’t just useful to you, it’s useful for the entire neighborhood. 

If many people file such reports, the police department might open a more serious investigation to find out who is stealing packages from porches in your area.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Instead of waiting for a porch pirate to snag your holiday gifts before you get home, implement some of these tactics. They can help you to avoid being a victim of theft. There are tons of options available to shoppers that can help to eradicate porch piracy.

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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