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BBB Trends: Protect your holiday packages from being stolen; porch pirates threaten holiday cheer

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Online shopping is a great time saver during the holiday season but the shipped packages left on the doorstep provide a great opportunity for theft. According to insurancequotes.com, 26 million Americans have had holiday packages stolen from their homes since 2015. This often happens because people aren’t home when items are delivered, allowing thieves – also known as “porch pirates” – the chance to follow delivery drivers and pick up unattended parcels.

Sources from the US Postal Inspection Service say mail theft is a federal offense, and if prosecuted, carries a five-year jail sentence for the criminal. Although it’s impossible to delay the delivery of items ordered, there are a few ways to prevent them from being stolen.

“The best way to make sure your package is safe is to promptly remove mail from your mailbox or porch shortly after it arrives,” said Kathryn Woliung, Postal Inspector. “Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other’s mailboxes and residences.”
Another option is to have items sent to your work address, as long as you have permission from your employer. Your packages are then delivered to a secure location with little chance of them being stolen.
Some homeowners have taken steps to prevent daytime robberies – like package or mail theft – by installing webcams or smart security systems with cameras pointed directly at their driveway or front door. This allows the resident to monitor who is approaching their home. If they’re a victim of theft, the video recording can be used as proof when filing a police report.

“Video images are helpful because you have an image of the thief unless of course, they aren’t looking at the camera,” said Woliung. “If you combine this image with US Postal Services tracking scan information – which records the exact time of delivery – then you can include all of this information on the police report.”
If you don’t have a nearby relative or a trustworthy neighbor, consider renting a Post Office box or utilizing a brick and mortar pick-up site like the UPS Store. Before using these services, make sure to read and understand the rental agreement.
Online ordering has made it simple to shop quickly both during the holidays and the rest of the year, but having your items delivered requires a little extra caution. When placing your order, think about where it should be delivered and whether or not it’s a safe spot. Additional tips for timely delivery and package safety is available from the US Postal Service at usps.com.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB promoting the message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Cincinnati BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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