In the next few weeks holiday shoppers in the United States are expected to spend a whopping $136 billion for all kinds of great gifts online. That means more packages will sit out on doorsteps and front porches than ever before, tempting pesky “Porch Pirates” to strike.
If you haven’t had a delivery stolen yet, odds are pretty high you will. More than half of online shoppers reported at least one missing package in the last six months according to research analytics firm Clutch. But surveys also show there are ways to slow the thieves down that don’t cost a fortune or require a whole lot of work on your part. Here are the simplest ways to protect yourself — and your precious holiday buys — from those nasty gift grifters.
RING THE ALARM
You don’t have to go all James Bond with a high-tech security set up just to keep an eye on your front stoop. I’ve been using a Ring video doorbell ($99) for the last three years and it does a good job of letting me know when someone strolls up my front steps. I can set custom zones to tell the camera to ignore motion in certain areas, like the traffic whizzing by just a few yards from my front door, but it still sees a delivery person tossing a package on my porch — and better yet, lets me know about it.
These always-on electronic eyes are a fantastic first line of defense, and they’ve done a great job either scaring away, or helping to catch tens of thousands of porch pirates in the act all over the world. There are entire online video channels dedicated to video captured of the thieves in action, and security video often helps lead police right to them.
THE KEY TO A SMOOTHER DELIVERY
Sometimes the best defense against Porch Pirates is eliminating the porch entirely. I’ve recommended Amazon Locker in the past because it’s a dead-simple way to get your packages without letting them fall into the wrong hands. With Locker, Amazon delivers your packages to Amazon’s equivalent of a PO Box, and you pick up your package from the locker whenever you have time. It’s still a great option, but Amazon is kicking its theft-fighting game into high gear these days, and Key by Amazon turns your home, garage, or even your car into your own personal Amazon Locker.
Key by Amazon is an app that links your Amazon account with any high-tech gadgets you already own. That means smart door locks like Ring and connected cars including Ford, Honda, Acura, and Volvo. The app gives Amazon’s own delivery people temporary permission to unlock your home, garage, or car, where they can safely drop off a package and then automatically lock up when they leave. Key syncs with smart cameras, too, so you can watch the delivery take place, for added peace of mind.
It’s only available in select areas right now — you can check if it’s available right on Amazon’s site — but it’s one of the easiest ways to get what you need and leave Porch Pirates out in the cold.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
I know how easy it is to breeze through an online checkout without taking the time to read anything but the total price — I have places to be, people! — but remember that some of the best theft-fighting tricks are right there in front of you.
Whether it’s UPS, FedEx, or even the United States Postal Service sending your goodies, most big online stores let you add “Signature Required” to your delivery. Amazon even does this automatically if your order is particularly expensive, but it’s a good idea to get in the habit of using it as often as possible wherever you’re shopping online. The benefit is obvious: If you’re not home to sign for it, your package won’t be left on your porch like a sitting duck.
If you already know you’re not going to be home to sign when a package comes your way, tell the shipping service to hold it for you. FedEx calls it “Hold at Location” and lets you specify one of thousands of optional pickup spots, including FedEx, Walgreens, Kroger, and several other FedEx partner locations. UPS will do the same, sending it to the nearest UPS Customer Center and holding it until you’re ready to pick it up.