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How to avoid being victimized by porch pirates

How to avoid being victimized by porch pirates


Deliveries left at doorsteps are vulnerable to thieves. Here are some tips to make sure you get your packages before they do.

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Smart doorbell against a pink illustrated background.
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

It’s the holiday shopping season, and although people are once again visiting stores in person, most of us are also (or only) shopping online. That means there are a lot of packages being sent and received — and, unfortunately, stolen. Social networks and the media are full of warnings about “porch pirates,” thieves who take packages that are sitting in front of peoples’ doors. According to, 49 million Americans have had at least one package stolen in the past 12 months.

Whether or not there are more packages being stolen these days than before, the fact is that none of us want to have to deal with deliveries that have been mislaid, misdelivered, or misappropriated. While no method is foolproof, here are some ways you can avoid these inconvenient happenstances.

Use a security camera or smart doorbell

You no longer have to purchase a full (and expensive) home security package in order to be able to monitor what happens at your front door. You can get a reasonably priced security camera or a smart doorbell camera that will automatically take a video of any activity that occurs in front of your door — and will notify you when it happens.

Many of these cams will stream the video to your phone or to your Echo or Nest device, and some even have two-way communication so that you can yell, “Drop that package!” through the speaker, even if you’re not at home. At the very least, with the video, you’ll have proof of the theft.

Use Amazon Locker or Counter or another drop-off location

If you’re receiving a package from Amazon, you can choose to have it delivered to a nearby Amazon Locker, a self-service kiosk that lets you pick up your package without worrying about anyone else absconding with it. There are also stores that offer Amazon Counter service, where they store your package and then give it to you on request. You can find the nearest Amazon Locker or Counter service here.

If you’re going to be receiving a lot of packages, and they’re not all from Amazon, you could also rent a mailbox from the post office, a local UPS store, or another package store, where they will hold your packages for you to pick up at your convenience.

Google Nest smart doorbell attached to the side of a door.
Smart devices such as this Google Nest doorbell can keep a watchful video eye on your packages.
Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

Use Amazon Key

Amazon Key is a service available to Prime members where you can arrange to have your packages delivered inside your garage. You need to purchase a myQ smart garage device, register it with Amazon, and then select “Free Key Delivery” at checkout. When the driver arrives, they will scan your package, the garage door will be opened, and the driver will place the package inside your garage and close it.

Pick up at a store

If you’re not into in-person shopping but don’t mind making a quick stop at a store, you can often make a purchase online and then arrange to pick it up at the nearest retail store.

Track your package

One of the simplest ways to try to prevent theft is to be aware of where your package is and when it is delivered. Most of the major delivery services have apps that will not only track your package but send you an alert when it is delivered. You can also send a notice to the driver to leave the package at a safer location, such as your back door or with a neighbor. And if your boss suddenly wants you to work late, you can arrange to have the package delivered the next day. Three of the most popular apps are UPS My Choice from UPS, FedEx Delivery Manager, and USPS Informed Delivery.

Require a signature

When you send a package or have a package sent to you, you can require a signature for delivery. While that can be inconvenient — if you’re not home, you’re going to miss the delivery — it does mean that it won’t be just dumped at your doorstep.

Talk to your neighbors

It’s nice to have helpful neighbors. Just recently, I ordered a mug from eBay (to replace one in a set that had been broken). I got the notification that it had been delivered — but no such package had appeared, and the next day, it wasn’t there, either. I was about to ask for a refund when I got a text from a neighbor — the package had been accidentally delivered to her home.

There have also been times when neighbors who were going to be away asked us if we would look out for packages and keep them until they returned.

In other words, if you are friends with one or more of your neighbors, sometimes you can ask them to care for expected (or unexpected) packages. If you’re going to be away for a week or more, you might even arrange for the packages to be delivered to a friendly neighbor.

Insure your package

Worse comes to worst, if you’re sending somebody a new TV monitor or the latest smartphone, you definitely want to put some insurance on the package. It will add a few bucks to your delivery fees, but if somebody does make off with that $900 device, at least you can get your money back.

Contact the vendor

If the delivery is from a major company such as Amazon or Best Buy and you received notice that it was delivered — and it wasn’t — then immediately contact the vendor. They will probably want you to wait a couple of days to make sure that the package isn’t running late, but after that, many will be reasonably helpful in refunding your money or resending the purchase.