Porch pirates are thieves who steal packages from the front doors of unsuspecting customers that have been anxiously awaiting their orders. This petty practice has been on the rise in the States. Porch pirates stole 260 million packages estimated at $19.5 billion in 2022, so it’s critical to have a strategy to thwart porch piracy. If you have had a run-in with a porch pirate, then you already know how it feels when someone swipes your precious package right from your home.
There are different levels of products and services offered to keep your deliveries safe. It’s best to think ahead and try some of the lower-cost options before you have a package stolen. Often, prevention is the best step.
Table of Contents
- When you’re ordering
- Delivery security options
- What to do if your package is stolen
- What to do if your mail is stolen
When you’re ordering
The most foolproof way to foil a porch pirate plan is to make sure that your delivery doesn’t even hit your doorstep. The option you choose may also depend on the value of your package. If you’re ordering a $5 smartphone screen protector, it might not be worth going through the same package security measures as it would be for a new TV.
Get a neighbor to take your delivery
Take some time to think ahead when placing your order and look at the estimated shipping date if it’s available. If it’s a time that you can be home, put a reminder in your calendar that you’re expecting a delivery that day to remind yourself not to wander off and give your potential porch pirate an opening. If you aren’t home, see if you can direct your delivery to a neighbor that will be.
Require a signature
Another option for many carriers is to check off the ‘Require Signature’ box in the shipping section of your order. This means that if you’re home, perfect, you can sign, but if you’re not, the delivery person can’t leave your parcel unattended on your front step. It could require an extra step for you to go pick it up from their location as most couriers will only try to deliver once, but it’s a guarantee that a porch pirate can’t scoop it up.
Send your package to work
If this is an option for you, it’s a great way to ensure package security, as most offices have robust security systems in place as well as commercial surveillance cameras. Even if you have a smaller office, porch pirates are much less likely to consider a business a target. A potential downside to this option, if you work in a large office building with a shipping/ receiving department, is that there may be a slight delay in how quickly you get your package. Larger companies employ shipping and receiving teams that manage the large volume of incoming and outgoing packages. Because of that extra step in the process, you might experience a delay as your package arrives in the building, gets cataloged, assigned to an internal person to deliver, and finally brought to your floor or office. Usually, this is no more than one business day.
Use a secure parcel receiving service
If you know you won’t be home to receive your package and sending it to work is not an option, several services securely receive parcels for you. Most of these services work on the same premise; their job is to be there to take delivery of your item and place it into a secure locker (like a safety deposit box at a bank). They then assign a unique code to the locker to each delivery and send you that code. You can stop by at your convenience and pick up your delivery, knowing that it has been safely locked away.
Most parcel lockers have size restrictions (i.e., they probably won’t have a locker big enough for you to ship a refrigerator), so this is best for smaller but valuable items.
Ask the delivery driver to leave your parcel out of sight
This one seems straightforward, and it is, as long as you have a designated ‘out of sight’ place that’s relatively simple to communicate with the delivery service in a note. Leaving a generic request to leave your package out of sight can result in odd complications, especially if you live in a high-density urban area.
A simple and easy to implement practice for making this a smooth delivery option is to have something easily identifiable on your front porch or steps and a designated spot where you want them to leave it. This makes your communication easy as your delivery note can read something like ‘Please leave the package behind the chair to the left of the blue owl.’ If there could be any question as to what patio or area is yours, you’ve provided a distinctive item and given them context for where you’d like your package left.
Delivery security options
Get a porch locker or porch pirate bag/box
These are hand devices that have a combination lock attached to a metal box or reinforced plastic bag. While a determined porch pirate could break into either of these, it would require a level of preparedness and determination that would more likely result in your delivery being left safely on your porch.
The critical part here is that you must remember to leave the combination lock open on days you are expecting a delivery, or the driver won’t get in, and your parcel will be left unsecured.
Hold for pickup option
The “Hold for Pickup” option is a service that most postal and delivery services provide where you can choose to have your package held at a designated post office or delivery center. By opting for this option, your packages will be stored in a controlled and secure area. Once the packages arrive, you’ll be notified to pick them up at your convenience, as this option allows you to choose a pickup time that suits your schedule, providing more flexibility compared to waiting for a delivery window.
Home security systems
A home security system is an overall security blanket for your house, porch pirates included. Not to say that thefts can’t still happen, but they become much less likely with a home security system. Not all systems have to be monitored or involve a monthly fee; there are standalone options that don’t require a continual cost. The level of complexity is very customizable, and companies like Honeywell and ADT are good places to start researching what option is best for you.
Rising in popularity in the past few years, doorbell cameras are a great option to ensure package security, as well as an excellent overall home security measure. A doorbell camera is a great security measure as it can provide live video surveillance of the front door area, motion detection alerts that send notifications to the homeowner’s devices, and the ability to engage in two-way audio communication with visitors or potential intruders. These features collectively enhance security by providing real-time monitoring, alerting users to activity, and enabling remote interaction.
For smaller packages (think a padded envelope), locking mailboxes are easy to install and a great way to ensure you’re the only one with access to your mail. Your mail carrier or delivery person places the mail through a slot at the top, and it falls down into a section that requires a key to open.
If you routinely order valuable items from Amazon, the Amazon Key might be for you.
Despite the name, there is no physical key involved. You install a smart panel on your front door, gate, or garage door that allows you to communicate remotely through an app with the Amazon driver, unlock the door for them, and lock it when they leave. You also get a video of them dropping off the package and exiting your home or yard.
What to do if your package is stolen
If the worst happens and you indeed have been struck by a porch pirate, all is not lost. Here there are steps you can take to replace your lost items.
- Check security footage: If you have security cameras installed, review the footage to see if you can identify the person or gather any information about the incident
- Contact the seller: Once you have confirmed with your neighbors, roommates, family, etc., that someone didn’t bring the package in for you, contact the seller. They frequently have policies to replace stolen items or give a refund
- Contact the delivery company: Get in touch with the delivery company and file a claim with them. They may be able to provide more information about the delivery, track the package, or initiate an investigation
- File a police report: If you have evidence of the theft, such as surveillance footage, consider filing a police report. This can help in documenting the incident and potentially help prevent further thefts in your area
- Check your insurance: If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, check if it covers stolen packages. Some policies might provide coverage for stolen items
- Monitor for suspicious activity: Alert your neighbors about the incident and keep an eye on your surroundings and any unusual activity in your neighborhood. Porch pirates can target the same area repeatedly
What to do if your mail is stolen
While the term “porch pirate” is commonly associated with package theft, these individuals can also steal your mail. This can include important documents, letters, checks, or any other mail items left accessible. It’s essential to take measures also to prevent mail theft.
- Report to postal authorities: Report the theft with your local post office or the main postal service. Provide them with details of the incident, including the date and any relevant and helpful information
- File a police report: Mail theft is a federal crime in the U.S. and it needs to be taken seriously. Contact your local law enforcement agency and file a police report about the stolen mail. This can be important documentation for any potential legal actions
- Monitor your accounts: If the stolen mail contains sensitive information like credit card statements, bank statements, or personal information, monitor your accounts for any unusual activity
- Contact financial institutions: If any credit cards, checks, or other financial documents were stolen, contact your bank and credit card companies to inform them of the situation. They can take steps to prevent unauthorized transactions
- Notify service providers: If any subscriptions or services were affected by the stolen mail, contact those providers to inform them of the situation and update your contact information
- Keep documentation: Maintain copies of all reports, communications, and actions taken in response to the theft. This can be useful if you need to provide evidence or documentation later
- Update addresses: Consider changing your mailing address to a more secure location, such as a P.O. Box or the local post office’s hold-for-pickup service
- Install security measures: Enhance your home security by installing a mailbox lock or a secure mailbox
- Be cautious of scams: Stolen mail can be used for various scams, including phishing attempts. Be cautious of unsolicited calls or emails and verify the legitimacy of any requests for personal information
- Check credit reports: Regularly monitor your credit reports for any suspicious activity or accounts opened in your name. This can help detect potential identity theft early.
Porch piracy is especially concerning around the holiday shopping season when deliveries are at their peak, but package and mail theft can happen at any time. The rise of porch pirates and mail theft incidents underscores the need for vigilance and security measures to safeguard personal belongings and sensitive information. By following security measures like “Hold for Pickup,” using package lockers, and installing security cameras, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to theft.
Another great alternative to safeguard your online deliveries is to utilize package receiving services, as they offer safe and secure facilities to get packages delivered to a location that is closer to you. These package acceptance locations act as your secondary address, where you can have your parcels shipped, to be picked up when you can.