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Nearly one in three online shoppers has had a package stolen from their front porch or doorway, according to a survey of e-commerce customers by Shorr Packaging. And with the sharp uptick in online shopping over the holiday season, the so-called "porch pirates" who pilfer these packages are just getting started.
If you were unlucky enough to have a package stolen from your front door, here's what you need to do.
What to do if a package is stolen from your porch
If your mail was stolen, follow these steps to be reimbursed or to receive a replacement item.
Step 1: Track the package
If you suspect your package was stolen, the first thing you should do is check your purchase confirmation email for tracking information. Typically, you will receive a tracking number that you can use to track the item's shipping status. Sometimes all you need to do is click this number or button, but other times, you may need to copy the number and enter it on the website of the retailer or shipping company.
It's normal for shipments to face delays, especially during peak shipping seasons such as the holidays. The shipping status will show you where your package was last registered or the date on which it was delivered to the shipping address.
If the item is listed as having been delivered, continue to step 2.
Step 2: Check if your neighbors saw it or held onto it for you
If you've verified that the item was delivered, check with your neighbors. It’s embarrassing to unleash your wrath on a customer support representative, only to discover the kind lady next door saw your package and took it in order to prevent it from getting stolen or rained on. Even if they don't have your package, your neighbors might have seen it earlier in the day.
Step 3: Contact the seller or retailer
If it appears that your package has been stolen, contact the seller or retailer that sold you the item. Different retailers have different policies and processes for handling stolen items, but you're usually entitled to a refund or a replacement.
Amazon covers most stolen packages through its “A-to-Z” Guarantee Protection. Sometimes, purchases that are "fulfilled by Amazon" are actually sourced from retail partners known as “Amazon Sellers.” (You should know if that’s the case at the time you order the item.)
If that's the case for your purchase, Amazon requires that you first contact the Amazon Seller and try to settle the issue with them. But if you've waited two or more business days for a response or the seller is uncooperative, you can file a claim with Amazon and they'll likely issue a refund.
In many cases, retailers will quickly agree to send you a replacement item. But if they decline responsibility and refuse to issue a replacement, there are still a few steps you can take to receive reimbursement.
Step 4: File a claim with the shipping company
Sometimes, retailers try to shift responsibility to the shipping company or require you to file a complaint and wait a certain number of days to find out for certain whether your package won't be delivered.
If you encounter this scenario, you might want to file a claim with the shipping company as well. UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL all provide an online claims process to report your missing item, and you can also contact them by phone.
Step 5: Use the purchase protection features on your credit card
Many credit cards offer purchase protection that will reimburse you for stolen items — as long as the item was purchased entirely with that credit card and the card issuer is notified within a specified timeframe. Check your credit card provider's website to check for this coverage and to file a claim.
Unfortunately, some credit card companies exclude coverage for high-value items (typically anything worth over $500 to $1,000). Some may require you to file a police report before they'll offer a refund. Finally, credit card purchase protection is often defined as secondary coverage, which means it only kicks in after you've already utilized primary coverage such as home or renters insurance. That brings us to step six.
Step 6: Claim high-value items with your homeowners insurance
Most homeowners or renters insurance policies cover stolen packages. Unfortunately, this is only helpful for purchases that are worth more than your deductible.
Given that most homeowners insurance deductibles run between $500 to $2,000, filing a claim won’t make sense for most stolen packages. Even if the lost item is more than the deductible, you’ll need to weigh the possibility of your homeowners insurance company increasing your premiums due to your claim, not to mention the hassle of filing the claim itself.
How to prevent package theft
Experiencing package theft is frustrating, and the claims process can be even worse. If you want to protect yourself this holiday season, consider these options to protect your packages while you're away from home.
Schedule for in-person delivery
The best way to prevent mail theft is to receive your packages in person. You can do this by informing your postal service company that you require a signature for delivery, or by making sure that your mail is delivered to an address where somebody is always present. If you're regularly away from home, see if a neighbor is willing to accept delivery. Or, if it's okay with your employer and your package is small, designate your workplace as the shipping address.
Use a lockbox service
A second way to prevent stolen mail is to have packages delivered to a lockbox through a service such as Amazon Locker. Some grocery or convenience stores also offer this type of service, or you can have your package delivered to your local UPS or USPS center and pick it up there. If you fancy a shorter trip than a drive to the post office, you can buy a combination-protected lockbox that sits on your porch and protects your packages until you get home.
Insure your packages
If you're ordering a high-value item online, such as a new iPhone or tablet, pay a few extra dollars to insure its delivery. You can usually do this either with the vendor or through the delivery service.
Install a security camera
There are many cheap home security cameras that are easy to install around the perimeter of your home. Most of these cameras sync with your wifi and even a phone app, so you can check in on packages left throughout the day. The mere presence of these cameras may be enough to ward off would-be porch pirates, but even if it doesn't, you'll at least have evidence for a police report.
An added bonus: installing these cameras may qualify you for a homeowners insurance discount.
How often do packages get stolen, and when?
According to a study commissioned by Ring — an Amazon-owned smart home company — package theft affects roughly one in five U.S. households. The average victim lost 2.6 packages to theft in 2017, and the average lost package was worth $140. Applied to the Census total of U.S. households, these averages suggest that porch piracy cost U.S. consumers over $8.2 billion in one year.
- Total victims: 22.6 million
- Total packages stolen: 58.7 million
- Approximate lost value: $8.22 billion
The holiday shopping season brings an enormous increase in the volume of online orders sent out across the country, and consumer responses showed that package thieves rise to the occasion every year: 35% of all package theft victims reported having at least one package stolen in December, with the next-highest spike coming in the warming spring month of March.