Porch Pirates Stole 260 Million Packages Last Year. Here's How to Protect Your Online Orders

Man accepting package from a delivery driver

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Online shopping can save you time and money, and is often more convenient. That is, as long as your package doesn't get stolen from your doorstep, something that's happening to more and more people.

Sadly, the growth in online shopping has brought with it an increase in package theft. Porch pirates -- robbers who steal online deliveries -- made away with 260 million packages last year. According to Safewise, that was almost 25% more than the year before, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. So how common is it and how can you protect yourself?

How common is porch piracy?

There's no database tracking this particular crime, making it difficult to know the scale of the problem. However, Safewise estimates around $19.5 billion is lost to package theft every year. Its survey showed that 79% of Americans were victims of porch pirates in 2022, and that over half of them had more than one package stolen.

These were the five worst metro areas for porch pirating last year:

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, California
  2. Seattle-Tacoma, Washington
  3. Austin, Texas
  4. Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut
  5. Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, California

The metro areas with the fewest porch pirating cases were:

  1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  2. Tampa-St. Petersburg (Sarasota), Florida
  3. Raleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), North Carolina
  4. Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Florida
  5. Cleveland-Akron (Canton), Ohio

How you can protect yourself from porch pirates

You may not be able to get a refund or replacement if you're the victim of porch piracy. Some retailers may help, and according to Forbes, several shipping giants have implemented their own programs against theft. These include package tracking and emailed alerts for delivery. You may also be able to claim on your homeowners insurance or rental insurance, depending on the value of your package and the cost of your deductible. Here are some tips to keep your packages from being stolen.

1. Plan your deliveries

If possible, get parcels delivered while you are at home. It isn't always possible to do, but you can often schedule deliveries for a time that's convenient. Another option? Get them delivered to your workplace. You might also require a signature on delivery so the package can't just be left on your doorstep. Bear in mind that this may entail a fee.

2. Use local pick-up options

Sure, picking up a parcel at a local hub is more hassle than having it left on your doorstep. But they are also more secure. There are pickup locations like Amazon Hub spread throughout the country, so have a look at what's available when you check out. If there's one nearby, it means you can collect your package yourself and reduce the risk of theft. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to do this for one of my recent deliveries.

3. Install cameras and/or floodlights

There are several security options that won't break the bank and can be a big deterrent to potential thieves. If you don't want to go the whole hog and install security cameras, consider a video doorbell. You can get one online for around $100 and features vary from model to model. Plus, some come with motion sensors so you'll know when there's someone outside your house. Some models let you talk to the visitor as well.

The presence of any form of security, such as a camera, could put off porch pirates. Similarly motion-sensor lights will make your front door less appealing to criminals who prefer to skulk in the dark. Whether it's porch pirates or other types of thieves, motion detector lights can make a difference.

4. Consider a lockbox

Like cameras and floodlights, there are a range of lockboxes on the market at different price points. They work in different ways -- you might get one with an electronic code that you share with the delivery person, or a door system that means packages can go in but not be taken out. Be aware that lockboxes aren't super cheap, so you might only consider them if you regularly buy expensive goods online.

5. Talk to your neighbors

One of the most cost-efficient ways to guard against porch pirating is to come to an agreement with your neighbors about packages. It won't work if nobody's at home during the day, but you may have a neighbor who doesn't mind signing for the occasional parcel. Just be careful not to exploit the situation -- nothing destroys neighborly relations like getting them to receive all your holiday shopping.

Bottom line

There's often a trade off between security and convenience, but it is worth taking steps to protect your deliveries. Particularly given this type of crime is rising and there are no guarantees you'll get your money back. If your bank account balance won't stretch to cover extra security measures, consider using delivery hubs or making sure someone's in to receive your parcel.

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We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Emma Newbery has positions in Amazon.com. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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