The Package Theft Epidemic and How Victims Are Fighting Back

Online shopping is cheap, convenient, and doesn’t require you to have a nervous breakdown at the mall. It’s no surprise that nearly half of all holiday shopping for 2015 will be accomplished via the click of a mouse, but for many people in the U.S this convenience is coupled with anxiety, and the reason is package theft.

Thieves are targeting the entrances of homes in the hopes of intercepting deliveries. As online shopping’s popularity continues to grow so does package theft, with news outlets around the country reporting this disturbing practice. There are still no package theft statistics available, but officials and delivery companies say thefts peak in the lead up to the Christmas when more people are shopping online.

So how can we stop our packages being lifted this December?

Package Theft

Packages waiting in home entrances are too tempting for porch pirates. Photo by lisaclarke.

Porch Pirates

Every time a package hits a doorstep, porch or mailbox there is a window for thieves to swoop in and lift the goods. These thieves have been dubbed “porch pirates” and they pillage cardboard-cased treasures using two methods: waiting at a property for deliveries and following delivery trucks around.

“I’d been getting multiple packages stolen for weeks on end when I finally decided to do some investigation of my own,” says package theft victim Ronald Chalks. “I live in an urban environment and noticed the same two people waiting around my house in the early afternoon almost every day. When I alerted the police of this strange behavior, the two men scurried away the second they heard the sirens.”

Thankfully, it’s easier to get rid of unwanted loiterers than you may think. One of the best ways to do this is to install a security camera.  With today’s technological advances in home security you can access a real-time camera feed from your smart phone, tablet or computer. This will enable you to see when trespassers are converging on your property, enabling you to alert the proper authorities and stop the crime in its tracks.

“We’re definitely seeing more interest in outdoor surveillance solutions, which is in line with the increasing concern for package theft,” says Brandon Fleming, Manager at security firm Protection 1. “If the authorities won’t act on doorstep theft then it’s down to the homeowners to establish who’s taking their packages and how they are doing so. The only way to really determine that is by installing your own surveillance solutions and keeping one eye out at all times.”

If package thieves are staking out your property once the sun goes down then it’s advisable to look into a smart lighting system. Much like smart camera systems, smart lighting is all about being able to control and monitor your system from anywhere. This will ensure that your house is well lit even when you aren’t home – and burglars hate it when they can’t hide in the darkness.

The method of following trucks around can be trickier to tackle. Thieves can observe the precise second the package is put down and steal it in an instant, as package theft victim James Weisenborne remembers: “I was actually at home waiting for my package when it got stolen. The delivery person knocked on the door and by the time I got outside I saw someone clutching my package and hopping in a car. It was a complete blow to my sense of privacy.”

After his package was stolen Weisenborne attempted to communicate with the delivery service, but to his frustration they weren’t interested in trying to help: “They don’t do anything about it. Once the package hits your doorstep it’s not their problem anymore.”  A few simple methods to help curb the risk of truck-chasing package thieves are:

  • Always specify recorded delivery as your delivery option
  • Invest in a PO Box that allows packages
  • Get all of your important packages sent to your office or another safe location

Identity Theft

Aside from losing money and potentially irreplaceable goods due to package theft, there is also the risk of being a victim of something much more sinister: identity theft. Many packages (and mail in general) contain personal information that can be used to hijack your existence and cause irreparable damage.

According to the 2014 Travelers Consumer Risk Index, around 60% of Americans are concerned about identity theft. This fear is rooted in the chilling fact that identity theft can ruin your life in a myriad of ways. So in addition to the methods outlined above, what can people do to gain extra protection?

Many people don’t realize what kind of information is included in those billing documents that accompany packages. Instead of tearing the box apart, grabbing what you ordered and tossing the rest, properly dispose of all materials in the box. Porch pirates with identity theft in mind won’t just invade your home for unopened boxes, they will also rummage through your trash/recycling to get any information they can. Paying extra attention to what you are throwing away can make all the difference.

Following these tips can make sure porch pirates don’t infiltrate your deliveries. Package theft survivors, share your stories and let us know your secrets.

Andrea R. Jones

Andrea writes about the issues closest to her heart including technology, business, home improvement and youth alcohol/drug addiction.