How to Prevent Package Theft

Keep your deliveries safe from porch pirates.

A package left outside on the porch.
Ensure that your packages actually make their way into your hands.
WoodysPhotos / Shutterstock

November/December 2021 Issue

There’s no denying the convenience and ease of online shopping. But the rise of porch pirates—thieves who snatch recently delivered packages—means that sometimes your purchases don’t make it inside your home.

“Porch theft is a huge problem,” says James Kerr, founder and CEO of Boss Security Screens. A 2020 consumer survey from C+R Research found that 43 percent of respondents had a delivered package stolen—a 7 percent increase from the previous year’s findings.

As the holiday season approaches and more packages arrive or are sent to friends and family, stopping these bandits becomes even more essential. Try these tactics to help ensure that packages make it inside their destination, whether that's your home or a loved one’s.

1. Turn on the light.

Criminals prefer the dark, Kerr notes. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your entrance well lit. Place long-lasting LED bulbs—which are cheap and don’t use a lot of electricity—in outside fixtures. If you are replacing or installing a porch light, opt for a model with motion detection so it automatically turns on when someone approaches.

2. Install a video doorbell.

Smart video doorbells are the best way to deter porch pirates, says Jon Perry, president of Sting Alarm. Typically, video doorbells record when motion is detected by your front door and send you an alert, so you’ll know when a delivery person drops off a package or when someone is lingering on your porch who shouldn’t be there. If you’re home, you can bring deliveries inside immediately instead of unknowingly letting them sit unattended for hours.

Smart Tip: Other smart home devices can also prevent theft. “Just knowing a home has security cameras may dissuade a crook from choosing your home instead of the one down the street,” Kerr notes.

3. Ship packages elsewhere.

Instead of getting packages delivered to your home, send them to a mail center or pickup locker, or get a post office box instead, Kerr suggests. That way, “a human will receive them and keep them safe until you can pick them up,” Kerr says. Many large retailers also allow you to ship items to a nearby store, so you can pick them up directly.

A woman signs for a package delivery.

Request a signature on deliveries to prevent your package from being left unattended.

Sean Locke / Stocksy

4. Request a signature.

It’s often an option to require a signature when you set up delivery. That way, FedEx, UPS, and other delivery services will wait until someone answers the door and signs for the package rather than leave items outside. For more expensive items, consider also purchasing insurance, which will cover the costs of replacing a stolen item.

5. Be aware of the delivery date and time.

Many major online retailers share when to expect items and include a link from the delivery provider that lets you watch a package’s progress in real time. Even better, you can sign up for alerts from shipping services, so you’ll know when packages are set to arrive.

Most alerts are free, with paid add-on services available, such as being able to schedule or postpone a delivery time or ask for a package to be sent to another residential location. Some retailers and delivery services also let you add an optional note with delivery instructions. When possible, suggest discreet places to leave the package (think: behind a big planter or tucked behind the back gate) so they’re less visible to thieves.&

Once packages arrive, “don't let them sit outside your front door,” Kerr cautions. Bring them inside ASAP, or ask a neighbor to take them in until you’re home.

6. Consider a parcel drop box.

“Many people are investing in package delivery boxes to safeguard items until they can be retrieved,” Kerr says. Delivery workers place items in these oversize package boxes, which are designed so that only someone with the key or access code can retrieve the packages placed inside. Typically, parcel drop boxes are anchored to a wall or pavement for additional security. They can be purchased from hardware stores and big-box stores online.