From the very first day the post office started delivering mail from door to door, we’ve had to deal with common thieves and pesky neighbors stealing from our mailboxes.
And while it may be annoying when fast food coupons or bills go missing from your porch, that’s nothing compared to the frustration of losing a package you ordered weeks ago.
Sadly, cases of crooks nicknamed "porch pirates" stealing unattended packages are only becoming more and more common in the age of next-day Amazon deliveries.
A survey by InsuranceQuotes.com from last year found that 25.9 million Americans have lost at least one delivery from their porch.
So far, home owners have only been able to fight back by installing porch cameras or security monitors - or with the occasional box loaded with shotgun blanks.
But of course taping the person who walked away with your packages doesn’t guarantee you’ll get them back.
Thankfully, as these thoughtless crimes become commonplace, people have finally figured out how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Here are some simple but effective ways to keep porch pirates from taking your deliveries:
Ship Packages To A Person, Not A Place
If you know you won’t be at home during the day, when your package is expected to arrive, it doesn’t make much sense to have the box shipped to your home anyway. That's just asking for trouble.
If you can’t arrange to have something shipped to your home, ask a neighbor or friend who will be home at the expected time to collect it for you. The bottom line is if you’re concerned about porch pirates, you should always have someone ready to collect your goods.
Use A Secure Access Point
When all else fails, the service delivering your packages can look after them for you.
UPS can hold your deliveries at more than 9,000 locations, big and small, until you're ready to collect them.
The package delivery chain also has secure locations called Access Points, where your package can be stored under lock and key until you arrive.
And, of course, a traditional PO box at the post office will work the same way. All these methods involve traveling out of your way to collect a package, but they're worth it to protect your purchase.
Set Up Safe Home Delivery
If you don’t have time to drive down to your nearest UPS location, there are a few useful ways to protect packages shipped to your home.
The USPS offers a service called Informed Delivery through a smartphone app of the same name. It will notify you when a package is arriving, and you can message your postal carrier through the app to let them know a safe place for your packages.
For Amazon users with money to burn, the online retailer also offers a Key Smart Lock Kit, which allows you to remotely open your door for a delivery driver. But deliveries with Key Smart are only running in a handful of areas so far.
Go Low Tech
A handful of companies have tried to cash in on our fear of porch pirates, by offering special delivery storage boxes that can be locked or unlocked by an app.
That’s all well and good, but a homemade version will do just as well: all you need is a box that can be closed with a padlock, and maybe a sign to point it out to the delivery person.
Your postal carrier can drop packages inside the box, then shut it if you leave the lock open for them. Just be sure to weigh down the box or fasten it, so crafty pirates can’t just carry it away.
If all else fails, what can you do if your package was stolen?
One silver lining to this golden age of porch piracy is that retailers and delivery services are (a little) more understanding about thefts.
You can always report a package theft to the police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - hopefully they can just track down the stolen goods for you.
UPS and other delivery services will tell you to contact the sender, who might replace your goods if you can prove they were stolen. Amazon will also replace a stolen item at no cost to you.
And, in some cases, your homeowner’s insurance may even cover the thefts, and pay out the cost of your stolen items (minus your deductible).
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