From Amazon to UPS, there are plenty of resources for delivering packages straight to our doorsteps. Instead of rifling through stores and battling fellow shoppers for that last-minute holiday gift, most homeowners simply go online, press a button and wait for their delivery.
While package deliveries are highly convenient, they also come with a downside: thieves. Since most people can’t be home all the time, couriers often drop packages off on the porch or front steps, leaving them vulnerable to thieves, known as “porch pirates.”
Between November 2020 and November 2021, approximately 49 million Americans reported a stolen package, with thefts peaking during the 2020 holiday season. And, this trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. In a survey conducted by Security.org, about 1/4 of respondents claimed at least one of their packages was stolen in early 2022. The average value of stolen packages nationwide is about $50, meaning these thefts can put a serious dent in homeowners’ wallets — especially if the same house is hit more than once.
To discourage porch pirates, states are turning towards legal action. Several states — including New Jersey, Texas, Georgia and Michigan — have passed legislation to make package thefts a felony. However, this hasn’t stopped sneaky thieves from swiping gifts whenever they see an opportunity. On the bright side, there are steps you can take to properly secure your delivered packages. Here are five of our favorite tips for how to stop porch pirates.
1) Install a Security System
Cameras are a great way to stop porch pirates in their tracks. According to a study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, almost 90% of burglars avoided homes that have a security system. Even just the sight of a camera can make a potential thief think twice about taking a package. And, if they decide to steal one anyway, you’ll have video proof.
Of course, for a security system to deter thieves, they have to know it exists. You can display your home security by installing cameras in visible locations or placing a sign in your yard. If you don’t want to deal with the trouble (or expense) of getting a full system, try tricking thieves by buying a fake camera or sign.
2) Get a Doorbell Camera
Security systems are highly effective, but they’re not for everyone. A quality home security set-up can cost hundreds of dollars, with many providers charging monthly monitoring fees. If you like the idea of having a camera, but don’t need an elaborate system, consider getting a doorbell camera instead.
Many brands, such as Ring, SkyBell and Arlo, sell doorbells that double as cameras. With these devices, homeowners can monitor their front steps through a live video feed. Some cameras even provide motion sensors, which send out notifications whenever they detect a presence.
In addition to recording visitors, many doorbell cameras have two-way audio functions that support communication. Not only can you verbally ward off thieves, but you can also speak to couriers and give them instructions on where to leave your package. Ultimately, doorbell cameras are a convenient tool for just about anyone.
3) Buy a Porch Lockbox
While cameras definitely deter porch pirates, they’re not 100% fail-safe. A particularly savvy thief could cover their face before stealing a package. Those looking for something more secure might prefer a porch lockbox, which is essentially an outdoor safe for your packages. They come in two main varieties:
- Key-based lockboxes
- Code-based lockboxes
With a key-based lockbox, the courier slips a package through a slot, then closes it. The slot can be opened later using a key. With a code-based lockbox, the courier must be given a code to open the device. You can generally leave drop-off instructions through the online retailer or delivery service’s site.
Although porch lockboxes are highly effective, they’re also one of the more expensive solutions — a high-quality lockbox can cost over $200. However, if you plan on ordering expensive packages or have been a previous victim of package theft, it may be well worth the investment.
4) Use an Amazon Locker or Pick-Up Service
If you like the idea of a porch lockbox, but think it’s too hefty of an investment, an Amazon locker might be what you’re looking for. Instead of having your package delivered at your home, you can send it to an Amazon Hub Locker near you. You’ll get a notification containing a special code when your order is ready. Simply go to your locker and use the code to retrieve your package.
Amazon isn’t the only company that provides this service — both FedEx and UPS let customers use lockers or pick up packages from their stores. If you’re ordering an important package through another company, you might be able to use a third-party locker service (depending on your location). Many big cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, have package-receiving centers available to the public. However, unlike Amazon, FedEx and UPS lockers, these external services charge a fee.
5) Plan Ahead
Are you in need of a budget-friendly method to stop porch pirates? With some careful planning, you can protect your packages without opening your wallet. Here are a few of our top suggestions:
- Use package tracking
- Enlist the help of a neighbor
- Require a delivery signature
Most online retailers, as well as the US Postal Service, offer package tracking that lets homeowners monitor deliveries from the moment a package is shipped to when it shows up on their doorstep. You can use tracking to determine when your package will arrive, then try to ensure you’re home that day.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to guarantee you’ll be around when your package is delivered. Many of us have work, appointments or other obligations that we can’t ignore. If you know you won’t be available, see if a trusted neighbor can get your package for you. Tracking applications generally send a notification once the item is delivered, so you can let your neighbor know exactly when to collect it.
If you live in a secluded area or have busy neighbors, you might not be able to rely on anyone else. In these cases, you can still protect your package by requiring a signature. Most retailers let customers request a signature upon delivery — this means the courier can’t drop the item off until someone signs for it. While this helps prevent theft, it can delay your package, especially if you keep missing the courier. For these reasons, it’s generally best to only use signature requirements for expensive packages.
Ultimately, porch pirates are a serious problem. And, if you’re ordering lots of gifts to be delivered this holiday season, they can be a costly problem as well. Make sure your packages are secure by following one or more of these steps!
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