Delivery firms and consumers brace for a holiday season of porch piracy


Lockers, 'hold mail,' and tracking can help you keep your package to yourself

Porch pirates are back in action and possibly sailing through your neighborhood. With nearly all Americans (94%) having packages delivered this holiday season, the possibility of someone stealing those packages is great.

The threat is so ominous that half of those consumers say they know someone who’s been hit and feel like they may be hit, too. And half is a frighteningly large number considering that 44 million Americans have been victimized by porch pirates in the past three months

The losses aren’t small, either. On average, the value of stolen packages is $219. Nor are they isolated instances. There are some odd hot pockets in North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Delaware, and lower levels of danger in the South, but west of the Rockies there is just as much at stake as in the richer Northeast U.S.

The package delivery people don’t like this either

The country is facing a hit-and-run culture that not many of us realize exists. Law enforcement officials have arrested more than 600 people since May who held up mail carriers at gunpoint – not for the money they had in their pockets, but for the universal keys that open those big blue mailboxes where Americans have deposited payment checks, gift cards, etc.

Delivery drivers are a little nervous, too. A new report from Lance Surety Bonds shows that one in five delivery drivers have witnessed a porch pirate in action. Over 15% reveal they’ve been trailed by a porch pirate while on their route and two in five have reported porch poaching to their supervisors and consumers who were waiting for those packages.

How you can keep your packages safe

Does all this get your attention? Fortunately, there are some things you can do to minimize the threat of package theft. Respondents to the Lombardo Homes porch theft study feel that the delivery companies responsible for those packages aren't doing enough.

But what can you do is the bigger question. ConsumerAffairs searched what other good moves you can make to safeguard the delivery of your packages and here’s what we found:

First, from the researchers at Lance:

Install security cameras. Especially one that overlooks your porch areas

Choose a delivery time. Some companies will allow you to designate a delivery time window. Ask to see if they’ll do that, then make sure you’re at home to receive the package.

Get “smart.” Use a smart doorbell or security system to alert you of package deliveries.

Track, track, track. Utilize tracking notifications to stay updated on delivery times.

Get your packages where you work. Have packages delivered to your workplace or another secure location (like an Amazon locker) if you won't be home. 

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) added these suggestions:

Keep your mailbox empty. Try not to leave letters and packages in your mailbox or at your door for any length of time.

Inquire about overdue mail. If you do not receive a check, credit card, or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the sender as soon as possible and inquire about it.

Arrange for prompt pickup or use “Hold for Pickup.” If you cannot be home to receive a package, make another arrangement or use the USPS Hold Mail Service.

Request signature confirmation. When ordering something important, consider requesting Signature Confirmation for the intended recipient.

Do all your shopping on Amazon? The company probably offers the widest swath of protection, offering photos of the delivery, map tracking, one-time passwords, signature-required delivery.

But the safest bet may be the alternative “collection points” Amazon offers such as lockers and pickup locations. No, it’s not as convenient as opening your front door and picking up your delivery, but it eliminates most of the possibility that your package could be stolen.

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