Americans lost some $26 million in value because holiday packages left on their porches were stolen in 2017, according to a study conducted by InsuanceQuotes.com.
And it’s not just the holidays.
In fact, some 34% of American adults—more than a third—have had a package filched from their porch or know someone who has, according to a study by Reviews.com.
The incidents jumped to 45% for those aged 18-34.
The thieves, dubbed “porch pirates,” often follow UPS or Fed Ex trucks to homes and wait to see if the delivered packages are retrieved by residents.
If not, they swoop in, steal the packages, and are gone in less than a minute.
Some thieves go a step further, breaking into the home and stealing furniture and valuables.
It’s becoming an epidemic.
Homeowners are especially vulnerable during holidays because many are traveling but still receive Xmas gifts from family and friends.
When patrolling thieves notice that packages are still lying on someone’s porch after a day or two, they know they have an easy mark.
Some homeowners do have alarms and front-door security cameras. But they’re not always a deterrent for thieves wearing face masks that are in and out of your house in a matter of minutes.
Porch piracy is occurring everywhere, fueling a “doorbell” security industry that’s generated $500 million in annual revenues in just over 6 years.
Yet for reasons unknown, some U.S. cities are more vulnerable than others.
A report earlier this year by Safewise, a home security system, listed Austin, Salt Lake City, Miami, and Atlanta as cities where residents were most likely to get a package snatched.
Last year, the South Carolina legislature approved a bill that upped the criminal penalties for package-snatching from a misdemeanor to a felony.
And police in some locales have begun partnering with Amazon in “sting” operations to capture package thieves.
For example, in Jersey City cops left unattended packages containing GPS devices on porches in areas where theft had been widespread. When thieves promptly stole the packages, police tracked them down.
Still, law enforcement sources estimate that just 10% of package thieves are ever caught. And those are just the minority of cases where the victims actually decide to report the thefts.
As online purchasing and home product delivery continues to grow, porch piracy is likely to grow, too.
Improving home security and increasing the penalties for theft may help but these measures are not likely to solve the problem.
In fact, with the items being shipped – including expensive prescription medications – steadily increasing in value – porch thieves will have an even stronger incentive to steal in the future.
Despite the growing challenge, experts say there are simple prevention steps available to prevent porch pirates from stealing your goods — and your holiday cheer. They include:
- Install a secure drop box for packages. They range in price from $45.00 to $300.00, depending on their size. If you receive a lot of packages, this one-time purchase is well worth it.
- Get a smart lock. Have a courier or delivery person enter a unique code that unlocks the front door when the package is delivered. Then, they can place the package inside, close the door, and re-lock it. (Of course, make sure the courier has been properly vetted).
- Ask neighbors at home during the day whether they’re willing collect your packages. (This is the old-fashioned solution that may not apply in an age where so many neighbors barely know each other).
- Use an app to delay or redirect packages until you know you’ll be home – for example, FedEx Delivery Manager, UPS My Choice, and, USPS Hold Mail.
- Have packages kept at a delivery service store or post office where you can pick them up.
- Leave a note to have your package left where it cannot be seen (e.g. behind bushes or at the back door).
- Use a self-service pick-up locker.
- Arrange to have your packages shipped to you at work. (This is a solution of last resort. If it’s the holidays you may not be able to retrieve your packages for some time).
These are simple common-sense solutions that work and they don’t cost much (if anything) to implement. In the online age, thieves are becoming smarter and more opportunistic and consumers are becoming more vulnerable. Knowing the risk and taking appropriate action is essential.