news porch pirates on the rise how to prevent thieves from ruining your holiday

‘Porch pirates’ on the rise; how to prevent thieves from ruining your holiday

box on front porch of home

Package theft continues to be an issue for online shoppers in the United States with nearly one-quarter of consumers reporting package theft in 2021.

As the holidays approach, package thieves, also known as “porch pirates,” are targeting houses – and potentially ruining holiday plans.

According to the Better Business Bureau serving Western Virginia, thieves often look for houses that provide a quick in-and-out route, especially if the porch or area where packages are delivered are within a short distance from the street and are easily visible.

Tips to prevent package theft

  • Don’t leave unattended packages. When possible, do not leave delivered packages unattended for long periods. If you are expecting a package, attempt to schedule its delivery when you know you will be home. Ask your neighbors if they would mind holding on to packages delivered while you’re away.
  • Check with neighbors. Sometimes, your package may not be stolen at all, just simply at the wrong address. Before filing a report or contacting the sender, check with your neighbors and see if the delivery service may have dropped off your package at the wrong address. Many delivery companies will take pictures of your package in the designated location – be sure to check for the photo and verify it is at the right spot.
  • Use a security camera. Installing a home security system with cameras or simply a camera-enabled doorbell is a great way to deter package theft, especially when highly visible. You can also include a sign that specifically states that the residence is under surveillance. Even if a package is stolen from your porch, the video evidence will help law enforcement track down the thieves.
  • Talk to your delivery driver about leaving packages in a specific place that is not easily visible. You can also add delivery instructions when placing an order. Some retailers will have a dedicated section to fill out on the checkout page so you can put instructions where your package should be left.
  • Ship to store. If purchasing an item from a retailer that has a physical location near your home, consider shipping it there instead. Retailers will require proof of purchase or identification before releasing packages they have received, and this is a sure way to avoid porch pirates.
  • Require a signature. Many delivery companies include the option to require a signature before leaving a package, letting you take physical possession of the item as soon as it is delivered. While this option works well for those who are often at home, it may create difficulties in receiving packages if your schedule and the delivery service are different. Be sure to check with the delivery company on their policy for packages that are not signed for; they may return it to the sender after a certain number of attempts.
  • Consider a package receiving service. Some major retailers offer secure package receiving locations away from your home that you can access with a key or code. Some independent businesses also specialize in this service, allowing you to designate a different delivery location for your packages and the ability to pick them up.

If your package has been stolen, BBB suggests filing a police report and contacting the delivery company. BBB also recommends you ask the delivery service about insurance or other policies to reimburse you for your losses.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.