A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: How to outsmart porch pirates this holiday season — here are some helpful hints

It’s that time of the year again where many of us are in full swing Christmas shopping mode and are frantically trying to finish up our Christmas shopping. To avoid the mayhem of large and rude crowds, road rage Christmas shopping parking altercations or having to park in the back forty parking lot, many of us are instead scouring the internet these last final two weeks of Christmas just to keep our sanity.

According to Statistia.com it’s been estimated that Americans will spend $680.4B this Christmas season and approximately 71% of those shoppers believe they will get a better deal online than in stores.

Online sales are expected to continue to increase once again this season, with the US E-commerce sales estimated to be $353.7 billion for 2017, increasing to $485.3 billion by 2021.

The United States Postal Service, FedEx & UPS are all in the middle of their peak season trying to deliver all of Santa’s packages on time. According to UPS they alone plan to deliver 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But with all this all this good holiday cheer and spending, there are holiday Grinch’s strolling through your neighborhood waiting to hijack that your Christmas packages. More than two-thirds of consumers will have packages delivered to their homes this year but many of those items will never reach their intended recipients.

These “Porch Pirates” work overtime during the Christmas season and according to Ring a home security firm nearly 1 in 5 U.S. homeowners has been a victim of package theft in the last year.
These porch pirates have been known to cruise neighborhoods while you are at work, and will even follow package delivery trucks to steal what you purchased online last night. It only takes just a few minutes for a thief to drive through an area and see if packages are sitting on porches or stoops.

To combat this growing trend here are some helpful hints to avoid a Porch Pirate from ruining your Christmas this year:

Choose an Alternate Delivery Destination – If you’re not home during the day, think about getting the parcel delivered to your work address if that’s an option. Or have it delivered to a friend, family member or neighbor who could pick up and hang on to your parcel until you get home. Or opt to have your package held at a post office, FedEx store or UPS store until you’re ready to pick it up.

Sign up for Package Notifications – If you’re using the U.S. Postal Service FedEx or UPS think about signing up for  text or email alerts to track your packages as they’re  being shipped. When the package is delivered, you should receive a notification. From there, you can run home or have neighbor or friend retrieve it. 

Require a Signature – When ordering something online, you can typically request a signature for delivery. That way, your package can only be released if you, or someone, is home to sign for it. This works well if you have a flexible schedule and you don’t know if you are going to be home the day your package arrives.

Leave Delivery Instructions – Place a note for your delivery person to let them know where to leave your parcel— anywhere from the back door to behind a plant on your porch. The key is to have them place it out of sight of a porch pirate.

Personalize and Optimize Your Deliveries
– Similar to leaving a note, UPS and USPS allow consumers to personalize where a package will be left, so it’s worth considering an alternative location to a highly visible front porch.

Redirect a Package – If using FedEx, you can register for something called Delivery Manager. Through that program, you’ll be alerted when your FedEx package is headed to your address. If you’re not home yet and want to redirect your package to your office or another secure location, you can do so through the program. FedEx also lets you schedule a delivery for a time when you know you’ll be home. UPS also has something called UPS Delivery Intercept, which also allows you to reroute your package while it’s being shipped. To customize delivery, use the tracking number you receive from the online retailer when the item ships from their warehouse. That should allow you both to track the progress of your shipment and, if you wish, to specify its delivery to a different location around the home. (For delivery to a neighbor, it’s usually best, with their permission, to specify their name and address when you place the order.)

Be Neighborly – Ask a trusted neighbor or family member who is home during the day, to keep an eye out for your packages. By asking someone to hang onto your packages before you get home, you can reduce the time packages sit on your porch or in your mailbox  — also reducing the time a package thief has to spot and steal your package.

Electronic Key Lock – By installing an electronic key lock with a key pad on your front door, you can create a temporary combo for your neighbor so that they can open your front door and set your packages safely inside your house.

Request a Vacation Hold  – If you are guilty of some late Christmas shopping and you know that you’ll be out of town over the holidays, don’t forget to place a vacation hold on your mail to reduce the chances of packages being delivered only to sit  on your porch. You can do so at holdmail.usps.com, UPS.com or FedEx.com.

Use An Amazon Locker
– With package theft becoming more widespread, Amazon has set up Amazon Package Lockers throughout many cities. Once delivered, you will receive a locker number and a code that unlocks the locker door. True, it may be less convenient for some people to receive an item at a store than on their doorstep, but the option also frees you from the need to be home to receive deliveries securely.

Consider Amazon Key – Another option is to purchase gear that secures your deliveries by enclosing them, monitoring them or, in the case of a new Amazon product, allowing the delivery person to unlock your house to place them inside. The  Amazon Key, released on November 8, works by alerting a home’s primary resident when an Amazon courier is near. The courier can unlock the door on which the Key is installed. That instruction also turns on the Cloud Cam, a webcam packaged with the product which connects to your smartphone. The Cam then records the delivery person entering and leaving your home; allowing you to watch the delivery live, if you wish.

Purchase The Package Guard – This battery-operated, Frisbee-sized device connects to your home’s wifi and can be placed on, or attached to, your porch. Using the Package Guard app connected to your device, you’ll get an app notification or text when a package has been delivered (and placed on) the padlike device. If someone removes the package without you  disarming it through the app, the device will let out a loud alarm. 

Install A Front-Door Security Camera – There are several on the market and can be self-installed with an hour. They are connected to your smartphone and cost anywhere between $99 to $199 and operates off of your home’s wifi, has a built-in motion sensor alarm that, when triggered, will send an alert to your phone and a short video clip of the movement to the cloud and will allow you to speak to the porch pirate and sound an alarm.

Be Safe My Friends

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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