While wooden ships and hidden treasures may be a thing of the past, piracy is still alive and well. However, it looks a little different today. People have adapted to modern trade and e-commerce. Instead of waiting in ambush, now porch pirates will take things right from your front steps. Here’s what you need to know to make sure their crimes won’t interfere with your holiday plans.
What Is Causing the Rise of Porch Pirates?
Porch pirates are not a new phenomenon. There have always been people who seize packages from homes while the owners are away. It’s only recently that they have been dubbed “porch pirates.”
And sadly, it seems like it is becoming a more common practice. Part of the reason is that so many more people shop online. So, it’s relatively easy and most people get away with it. Some rationalize their actions because they see it as a victimless crime since most shippers or retailers replace stolen goods.
In most instances, porch piracy is a crime of opportunity. Walking off with an unknown package could result in a big payoff if it contains expensive electronics or other items they can resell. Unfortunately, it is occurring more frequently and will probably only get worse.
How Much Financial Damage Do They Cause?
When asked, nearly 64% of Americans reported that they had stolen packages last year. And although the holiday season has just started, a recent survey found that an estimated 260 million packages have already “gone missing” this year.
The sheer number is staggering. But when you consider that the average value of these packages ranges from $50 to $200, the financial impact becomes clearer. According to UPS, 1.7 million packages go missing every day, totaling $25 million in lost or stolen goods.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Porch Pirates?
Although you may be tempted to take things into your own hands, it’s wiser to take preventative measures against future theft. You don’t want to end up in a legal situation because you were trying to protect your personal property or teach someone a lesson.
1. Install a security system.
Even those who work from home can’t be there all the time. But, you can install a quality security system. Adding a doorbell camera, motion detector lights, and a security system will help you keep an eye on things while you are away.
Video surveillance allows you to monitor activity and confirm deliveries, and possibly provide evidence if someone does steal your packages. As an added bonus, you can speak directly to people through the doorbell camera to scare them off. Something as simple as posting a sign and making cameras clearly visible could also act as a deterrent.
2. Track your package and verify delivery.
Merchants usually send you the tracking number with your purchase. If the package is taking longer than expected, check the status online. You can also set alerts and updates, and many carriers will send photos of the delivery. However, you can add an extra layer of security by requiring a signature so packages are not left outside.
3. Become familiar with your delivery people.
One thing people don’t often think about is discussing mail issues with their carriers and delivery people. Sometimes they make mistakes and send things to the wrong house. Other times, there are errors on the shipping labels.
But if you are dealing with porch pirates, you can make them aware of the problem. And, you could also ask them to place your packages somewhere out of sight so porch pirates don’t target your home.
4. Add delivery instructions for your packages.
Another idea is to include delivery instructions at the time you order. Many sites provide space to include special instructions. If you are afraid the package will go missing, specify where you want it left so it isn’t in plain view. Then, there is less chance someone will see it and be tempted to steal it.
5. Talk to your neighbors.
Our neighbors frequently end up with our packages. So before I make any claims, I check around to see if it was delivered to the wrong house. However, if other people have had packages go missing as well, it could turn everyone on to a bigger problem.
Networking in your neighborhood is always a good idea. You can watch for suspicious activity and keep an eye on each other’s homes when you are away. Creating a neighborhood watch could prevent more thefts and major holiday headaches.
6. Contact the seller and shipping service.
If you are certain your item was stolen, contact the seller or shipping service. They may already have theft insurance. Furthermore, many carriers offer reimbursement or compensation through their claims process. So even if something goes missing, you will likely receive a replacement once you file a claim.
7. Purchase homeowners or renters insurance.
There are several good reasons to purchase homeowners’ or renters’ insurance. Porch pirates are one more you can add to the list. Your policy should protect against financial losses caused by package theft under personal property coverage. Just be aware of the policy limits, because it may not cover the full expense of electronics, fine art, jewelry, or cash.
8. Send your packages to the office.
You can avoid the issue altogether by having packages sent to your office or place of business. It’s a convenient option for smaller packages, but may be impractical for larger ones. Just remember to make sure that your boss is aware and okay with the arrangement before you flood the mail room with your holiday purchases.
9. Pay for receiving services.
If you receive multiple packages each week, it may be worth paying for receiving services. Many large delivery services rent lockers for a monthly fee. It could be a secure and practical solution for you if they have locations near your home or office.
10. Pick up your packages in person.
While it may be more inconvenient, sending your packages to the post office or distribution center is 100% secure. The only person they will release your package to is you. Picking up your items in person will ensure that you get every delivery on time and that nothing goes missing.
What Do You Do If You Are a Victim?
If you are a victim, follow the same steps to document everything as if you were making a claim for a car accident.
The first step is to contact the police and file an official report. The insurance companies may require it later during the claims process. You should also include all additional documents or photos you have. For example, you can provide any video footage you have of the theft. And, include any notifications and documentation of the delivery.
When you have everything in order, contact your insurance company to file the claim. But, you don’t want to delay too long since claims have to be promptly submitted. If you wait too long, it could cause them to deny your claim.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.