5 Easy Ways to Outsmart Porch Pirates and Protect Your Holiday Packages

Close up of woman hands opening parcel with present box.
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The porch pirates got me good once.

I arrived home after a long day at work to find two empty packages on my front stoop. The thermal sweatshirt that was supposed to be a Christmas gift for my dad? Gone. The pricy face cream I bought for myself? Gone. And the townhouse I was living in, which was on a residential street, didn’t have security cameras.

There were plenty of places to tuck the packages out of sight, but the delivery person was either too busy or had done so only to be foiled later by the thieves.

That was years ago. Now I can simply change my locks and have Amazon or Walmart deliver items directly to my living room. Thieves can’t steal your packages if there’s nothing on your doormat to yoink.

But what if you’re trying to receive packages and deliveries without allowing our e-commerce big brothers to let themselves in on a regular basis?

5 Ways to Foil Porch Pirates Once and for All

In 2016, home security company August Home Inc. estimated that 11 million U.S. homeowners lost a freshly delivered package to theft over the previous 12 months.

Don’t want to be a part of that very sad group of people? Try one or more of these methods to deter package thieves.

1. Make Delivery Requests

Some online ordering systems allow you to make delivery requests, like putting the package in a secure area. Making a request doesn’t guarantee that it will be met, but you may be surprised at how attentive delivery people are when dropping off your goods. “Leave on basement steps” or “upstairs neighbor can sign” are simple instructions that can help ensure your package gets to you.

If you happen to run into your regular local USPS, UPS or FedEx carrier, you may be able to make requests in person. But keep in mind that your neighborhood delivery person may have the best intel on which bushes are ideal for concealing packages.

2. Work With a Neighbor

If you know your neighbors — come on, go meet your neighbors — you can work together to thwart thieves. If you have alternating or overlapping schedules, swiping a package off their stoop — for good, not evil — means you can make sure it gets into their hands after dinner or whenever they get home.

3. Get Packages Delivered to Your Workplace

Not every employer will welcome your holiday shipments with open arms, so check with your office manager to see if they’d mind signing for packages you don’t want to risk having delivered at home. Hauling items home can be cumbersome later, but if you want eyes on a package ASAP, your workplace may be your best bet.

4. Pay for a Package Receipt Service

This isn’t the cheapest option, but it may be the most secure. Some businesses offer to receive packages for customers for a small fee.

I once lived around the corner from a dry cleaner that always had a line at the counter. Why so popular? Not only did it offer quick cleaning services, but you could pick up your dry cleaning and your packages in the same trip — and the hours were convenient, too.

5. Watch Your Tracking Info Like a Hawk

Ah, the beauty of technology. I can see the exact moment my package went from a warehouse plane to another warehouse and onto a truck. And I can see the moment it finally lands at my home. Tracking services may not prevent you from losing packages to theft, but the available tools can help you stay up to date on its path and estimated arrival so you can plan accordingly.

Frequently, you can sign up for text or email updates on your package’s journey, and if you miss a delivery you need to sign for, you can sometimes have the package rerouted to a shipping service center, like the UPS Store, so the delivery person doesn’t spend three days knocking on your door.

USPS even offers Informed Delivery, which sends you images of small pieces of mail that are on their way to your mailbox that day.

If the worst-case scenario happens, detailed tracking information can help make a case to your credit card company, which may reimburse you for lost or stolen items, or it could help you get a replacement item from the retailer.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.