10 Ways to Stop Porch Pirates From Stealing Your Packages

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Stop porch pirates in their tracks with these helpful tips.

The holiday season is upon us again and while most people are worried about shopping for holiday gifts, what we should really be concerned about is porch pirates stealing them. Package theft is a bigger problem than ever, with 29 percent of Americans reporting have had a package stolen over the past year, according to a recent Vivint survey.

Unfortunately, there are times when even the best home security systems are no match for a determined criminal. The uncertainty of holiday shipping deadlines further complicates this matter becasue we don’t always know when packages are going to arrive.

Whether you’re trying to figure out what to do if your Amazon package is stolen or if you ordered from another retailer, prevention is key. Here are 10 ways to stop porch pirates from stealing your deliveries.

What is a porch pirate?

JT Hwang, CTO of home security company Vivint, defines a porch pirate as a thief “who target packages, stealing them from a person’s front porch or stoop.” In other words, it’s someone who takes unattended packages from someone’s home when no one is looking.

Is porch piracy a crime?

According to Collen Clark, attorney and founder of Schmidt & Clark, LLP, porch piracy is a crime. “Although modified and stronger bills that outlaw porch pirating and stealing mail have recently been in effect, these thefts are often only charged as misdemeanors and frequently go uninvestigated.”

Clark recommends homeowners put up a “visible and legible ‘No Trespassing’ sign.” The presence of this sign guarantees that the thief’s actions were intentional, making your claims stronger. If coupled with a recorded video of the crime via your home security camera, you are [much more likely to get] favorable results if you take the matter into court.”

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Opt into delivery alerts

You can opt into receiving free tracking alerts from most major retailers and shipping companies. “It’s an easy way to prevent theft, and 34 percent of Americans are already actively taking this preventative step,” says Hwang.

You should be able to sign up for alerts after purchasing an item online or once you receive the initial tracking information. If you’re ordering groceries online, it’s probably easier just to pick them up. Here are 11 grocery stores that have both pickup and delivery.

Purchase an outdoor video camera

outdoor security cameraOnfokus/Getty Images

Rob Gabriele, home security expert at Security.org, says it’s essential to install an outdoor security camera. “Thieves don’t want to be seen, making security cameras a great first line of defense.”

If your budget allows, he advises buying a camera that has motion detection and a built-in siren. “A siren is an active deterrent that really sends a message.” Looking to buy a home security camera? Check out the 12 best-reviewed ones.

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Install a doorbell camera

While porch pirates probably can’t see a video doorbell from the street, once they see it, it may dissuade them from snatching that box of holiday presents. “The presence of a video camera at your door alone can scare away thieves,” says Hwang.

At the very least, having a doorbell camera will make you feel more safe and secure. According to Vivint’s recent survey, 20 percent of Americans felt better with heightened security and installed an outdoor security camera or video doorbell.

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Install a sensor that will alert you when someone is on your porch

“Whether you are at home or not, if it alerts you, then you can switch on the camera and see who’s there,” says Robert D. Sollars, owner of Sollars Violence Prevention. “And if you have a microphone as well, [that will] scare them away. There are several of these devices on the market and they allow you to answer the doorbell or alarm from anywhere with cell phone coverage.”

Even if you live in an apartment or condo, it’s always a good idea to have a security system. Here are the best apartment security systems.

Have packages shipped to your office

Porch pirates won’t be able to steal packages from your home if they never arrive. If you’re back to work in an office, Hwang says it’s a good idea to have your packages delivered there instead. “This ensures that your package will make it safely to either your desk or mailroom, alleviating the threat of porch pirates.”

Just be sure that this is okay with your employer first. Here are the office etiquette rules no one follows anymore.

Consider getting your packages delivered to a box

If you live alone and are rarely home, Sollars recommends getting a box at the nearest UPS Store, post office, or similar business. Even if you don’t use a box year-round, it’s a wise idea for the holiday season. “Just don’t close it too early,” cautions Sollars. “Some items may not arrive until well after Christmas, so you’ll want to ensure nothing gets sent back by mistake.”

If you’re sending gifts for the holidays, make note of these deadlines to ensure your packages arrive before Christmas and Hanukkah.

Leave a note for your delivery driver to hide your packages out of sight

Gabriele emphasizes that package thieves are opportunistic. “The longer a package sits around, the more vulnerable it becomes to theft,” he says. That’s why it’s smart to minimize the temptation: If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, arrange for a neighbor to pick up your packages or add an online note for delivery people asking them to hide the package in a specified location (like over a fence or behind a bush).

Try to be home when your packages are being delivered

Whitney Joy Smith, president of Smith Investigation Agency, says it’s important to plan to be home if you’re expecting a package. “It might be challenging to pre-plan, but once you have the delivery date, be prepared to wait for the delivery email or text to minimize the time of your package being left unattended.”

Here are the things your FedEx delivery driver won’t tell you.

Install a storm door for your porch area

Storm Door Via Homedepot.com

If you aren’t home a lot, but often have packages delivered, you may want to consider installing a storm door (or extra exterior door) for your porch area. “The storm door will allow the package to be less visible to the public, decreasing the chances of it being stolen. This step is optional, but it is still an excellent preventative measure,” says Smith.

Just don’t install a doggy door: Here’s why doggy doors can be a security risk.

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Gather your packages immediately

Sergio Flores, Chief Product Officer at home security company Canary, stresses the importance of removing your packages from your doorstep as soon as you receive them. “Once your package has been delivered, make sure to collect it immediately. It will take keeping a close eye on your cameras, but doing so will pay off,” he says.

Did you receive a mysterious package? Here are eight telltale signs of a suspicious package.

What to do if you see a porch pirate

If you happen to witness a theft on your property or that of a neighbor, you have an obligation to contact the authorities, explains Clark. “Getting the perpetrator’s attention to get them to stop the act is also ideal, however, this will usually lead to the culprit being spooked and getting away, so take note of the thief’s identity, or at least their clothing, and relay that information to local police.” If you’re quick with your smartphone, try snapping a photo of the thief in action.

Once you’ve finished your holiday shopping (and package collecting), check out these ways to have an (actually) happy holiday.

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Amanda Lauren
Amanda Lauren is a design and lifestyle expert who covers all things home for RD and among other publications. When she's not in front of a computer, recording her podcast Bougie Adjacent, or re-arranging furniture, she enjoys Los Angeles with her husband and wrangling their two dogs, Milo and Lulu.