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How to Prevent Package Theft and Safeguard Your Deliveries

Michael has had experience working with a leading transnational logistics and distribution company.

There are measures you can take to protect yourself.

There are measures you can take to protect yourself.

The Growing Menace of Package Theft

Hillary Smith of St. Paul Minnesota, was working in her office when she received a message that the package she had been waiting for had been delivered. When she arrived home however, the said package was nowhere to be found. There was just a small note left on her front porch that read: So just a quick little thank you for leaving me the opportunity of stealing your package. Very nice of you. Your new package owner.

According to research done by the NY Times, 1.7 million packages are stolen every day across the US. This translates to over 620 million packages a year. The average value of a stolen package is $140, which amounts to a daily loss of over $20 million, an annual loss of over $8.5 billion. Imagine a sector in business generating such a staggering net profit (not turnover) just by doing nothing!

According to C+R research, nearly 4 out of 10 people have had their delivered packages stolen at least once. The menace has recently become a significant problem especially owing to the ongoing pandemic. The global increase in online shopping and demand for deliveries has led to a proliferation of stealing. Porch pirates and other package thieves turn every season, including the season for giving, into a season for grabbing.

This is a crime of opportunity. The best way to combat it is to eliminate the options available to the criminal. Habitually leaving deliveries exposed and unprotected on a front porch is akin to having a sign there that states: Attention all and sundry. Opportune drop-off spot. Owners always unavailable when packages arrive. In other words, establish a wrong pattern and your location quickly becomes a target.

The following are measures you can take to ensure you do not join the growing numbers of victims of this menace.

  1. Switch to deterrent mode
  2. Reinforce security
  3. Customise deliveries
  4. Leverage technology

1.7 million packages are stolen every day. This translates to over 620 million packages a year. The average value of a stolen package is $140, which amounts to a daily loss of over $20 million, and an annual loss of over $8.5 billion.

1. Switch to Deterrent Mode

Porch pirates can be directly discouraged through means such as Package Guard. This is simply a device you set up on your front porch to prevent your packages from being stolen. It comes with a sign instructing couriers to place the delivery items on its surface. Package Guard contains a sensor, so whenever a delivery is made, an alert is immediately sent to you and anyone else in the neighborhood who you want to have that information.

If that package is lifted from the device, you are instantly notified and the sensors trigger off an alarm that can only be deactivated from your smartphone. The alarm that is set off is so loud it instantly detracts the thief because it catches them completely by surprise. Setting up the device and installing the app only takes about five minutes. One major advantage is that it is fully weatherproof.

There are scare gadgets or contraptions that are also used as deterrents. These are placed in empty boxes or packages which create a disturbance when the item is moved, for example, by mimicking the sound of a shotgun. The idea is to scare aware thieves and pirates without endangering them directly since the latter can be a contravention of the law in certain jurisdictions. Some innovative people use fake packages containing GPS trackers which when stolen can be tracked in order to catch the criminals and bring them to justice.

Of course, one way of discouraging would-be pirates is to plant surveillance cameras directly above your front porch and make them entirely out of reach. However, if you presently cannot afford to install a complete home security system, the next best thing would be to purchase dummy cameras.

These gadgets abound in today's market and they look convincingly like the real thing. The key is to make them as conspicuous as possible when viewed from any angle. This will not only ward off porch thieves, but anyone else contemplating invading your home to help themselves to your belongings. Another way would be to simply put up signs with such messages as ‘24HR Video Surveillance’ or ‘Video Recording in Progress’.

Prepare a place of concealment beforehand and then include instructions to the courier when placing your order.

Prepare a place of concealment beforehand and then include instructions to the courier when placing your order.

2. Reinforce Security

If there have been reported cases of theft in your neighborhood, consider using a lockbox securely attached to your porch. The advantage of using a lockbox is that once the parcel has been safely deposited inside, no one can access it without the key or code. Citibin offers such a service, where all packages delivered to the customer are safely kept in a secured delivery locker with instructions to the courier.

Another service called Package Concierge sets up automated smart locker systems in or outside apartment buildings. These lockers have varying dimensions and there is an interface where couriers can select the size of the package they are delivering when they arrive at the location. Based on the size selected, the corresponding locker opens up and the parcel or package can then be deposited there securely.

UPS, Amazon, and other service providers have their own lockers installed in various locations. The customer only requires to have the access code to open the locker and retrieve their package after it has been deposited.

As noted before, having your packages exposed will make your home a target. To curb this, prepare a place of concealment beforehand and then include instructions to the courier when placing your order, so that the package is not left where it will be plainly visible to passersby. Some customers prefer the use of a nearby fence, a bush, a planter, or some other form of obstruction to keep packages out of sight from commuters and pedestrians on the street.

You could also consider having an inconspicuous receptacle near your front door (like an empty crate, bin, or planter), with a note to the courier that all your packages are to be dropped within it. This way, no one from the street will notice anything out of the ordinary.

You could also get in touch with them in order to synchronize the delivery with the time when you will be available.

You could also get in touch with them in order to synchronize the delivery with the time when you will be available.

3. Customize Deliveries

Organize to have your packages delivered at your workplace (or school if you are a student), instead of having them left unclaimed and exposed at home, especially if no one is there to collect them on your behalf. You may need to check beforehand with your company or school authority for permission to use their address.

Alternatively, arrange with the courier company to deliver packages at their own local station or at the premises of one of their partners, be it a shop or convenience store nearby. Some delivery companies like Fedex and UPS have their own pick-up stations or have partnered up with other local businesses to facilitate this. The tracking information on their site will help you trace the package at every stage of the process and when it is delivered at the location. pkgPlace is a service that allows you to have deliveries in their own secure locations. You receive notifications when your package has been delivered and their app can be installed as a plug-in in e-commerce sites.

Some delivery services provide the option of not only tracking your delivery online but also contacting the courier to arrange how and where to meet with them in person. Knowing the route taken by the courier takes can help you make an alternative arrangement that is convenient for both of you. I had one instance where a courier would have spent a lot of time trying to navigate from the main street into the back of the building to reach the destination, so we arranged to meet elsewhere. You could also get in touch with them in order to synchronize the delivery with the time when you will be available.

Some services can also allow you to put your delivery on hold altogether if you will be away for an extended period of time, for example, if you are planning a vacation, or if something unexpected transpires and you need to travel on short notice. The package is retained by the courier company, delivered at your local post office to await your arrival, or signed off by an alternative trusted person on your behalf. You need to acquaint yourself with the policy of the courier company when it comes to making these arrangements and whether there are additional fees to be incurred if the details of the delivery process are altered.

4. Leverage Technology

Here are a few more quick ways you can use technology to your advantage to help keep your packages safe.

(a) Enable Access

There are services like Amazon Key which allow you to provide the courier with access to your premises in your absence. Once you have set up the Amazon In-Home Kit, they can use an app to unlock your house, car, or garage while the same app sends you a real-time notification. Alternatively, you could observe the delivery through your own home security system.

Of course, there is an element of risk involved here in terms of exposure and the possibility of third parties hijacking the process to gain entry into your property. To circumvent this, you may need to have additional security features installed.

(b) Involve the Community

As noted previously, it is always possible to make arrangements with a trusted neighbor or friend to receive and sign off deliveries on your behalf and then notify you of the same. There are services that level up this process.

Nextdoor is an app that allows you to be connected with your local community in such a way that they can intervene whenever their assistance is required. It allows a community to share information and to come to each other’s aid in case a problem arises.

Informed Delivery is a service that takes digital images of the exterior of the package being dispatched to you and sends you notifications via email while it is en route. In this way, you have sufficient time to make arrangements with a reliable person to pick it up on your behalf if you are unavailable yourself.

(c) Home Security Systems

As pointed out before, security cameras can be installed for surveillance and deterrent purposes. Smart video doorbells with motion detectors are ideal because they start recording when their sensors pick up movement near the entrance to your premises. They are conveniently equipped to alert you via smartphone when this happens such that you have the complete video and audio feed in the palm of your hand and can communicate directly to the person invading your privacy. One service at the forefront of this is ring.

Some of these services have a complete system that allows you to not only see whose on your front porch, but to unlock your house from your smartphone to let them in and then relock automatically after they have left. A major deterrent for pirates is when they realize their movements are being watched in real-time. These interfaces not only provide you with the opportunity to confront them directly, they make the perpetrators aware that they are now caught on video and there is no way they can sneak off with your package.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.