What to Do If a Package Is Stolen

Mar 28, 2019

Package theft is on the rise, and the internet is full of hilarious stories of homeowners fighting back. In Milwaukee, a woman purposely ordered a box of gorilla poop to leave as a surprise for porch pirates frequenting her home. In Tacoma, Washington, a man booby-trapped empty boxes with shotgun blanks to explode when picked up. In Kansas City, Missouri, a quick-thinking homeowner blared his alarm at a would-be porch pirate after his security system app notified him of movement on the front porch.
While these videos give us a laugh, package theft is not funny to its victims, and it’s a rapidly growing crime. Nearly one in four people now report being a victim of package theft and nearly half know someone who has had a package stolen, according to a recent study.

Of course, the uptick in package theft is not that surprising, with consumers purchasing $2.86 trillion in retail goods in 2018 online. Many of these expensive items land squarely in the middle of our unsecured front doorsteps - a tempting target for thieves.

How can I look for my package?

So, what should you do if you suspect a porch pirate? Before you go to the time and expense of rigging up a glitter bomb as this NASA scientist did, try these steps instead:

track package online

Verify delivery of the package.

If your tracking information shows that your package delivered, but you can’t find it, Amazon recommends you take the following steps:
  • Check the shipping address – make sure you didn’t put in a wrong address when you made your order
  • Look carefully around all the main doors to your residence; it’s possible the carrier left a notice of attempted delivery or put the package in a safe place, such as behind a bush or inside your garage.
  • Make sure someone else, like a neighbor, didn’t accept delivery

contact retailer to track package

Contact the retailer.

Start the claims process by contacting the retailer from which you purchased the item. Amazon asks customers to wait 36 hours, just in case a missing package turns up. Walmart asks that you wait up to 24 hours of the last delivery date provided in the range. Target has started directing customers to take proactive action to prevent package theft. If you visit the Help section of the web site, it instructs consumers to visit My USPS, UPS My Choice or FedEx Delivery Manager to customize delivery instructions.

In some cases, the retailer will send a new package or issue a refund for lost or stolen packages, especially if you do a lot of recurring business with the retailer or it’s a mammoth online retailer such as Amazon. Other times, you may have to work with the retailer or shipper to try to file a claim.

contact shipping company

Contact the shipper.

Your next step is to contact the shipper and start the claims process. Some shippers require the retailer who sold you the item to start the claims process, so that’s why it is essential to check with the retailer who sold you the product first.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) will have you start a Missing Mail search. UPS provides this handy video on how to report a lost or damaged package. FedEx provides its claims information here.

file a police report

File a theft report with the local police department.

DO NOT CALL 911. Package theft is not an emergency. Do an internet search for the phone number of your local police station.

Unless you have clear surveillance video that includes a license plate number and a little bit of luck, like what happened in this USA Today story, catching the culprit is unlikely. However, police still want to know about any issues going on in their community, so they can look for any patterns of behavior or trends, and possibly increase patrols in certain areas.

private mailbox service

Don’t have packages delivered when you’re not home.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of documented cases of homeowners who are at home, don’t hear the delivery driver knock, and still end having a package stolen. Still, it’s best to schedule package deliveries at a time when you will be home. If that isn’t possible, have packages delivered to a secure location, like your office or a neighbor whom you know will be home.

Retailers and shippers offer other creative (creepy?) options, such as Amazon’s Key for Home, Key for Car or Key for Garage services. These services allow Amazon delivery drivers to open your front door, the trunk of your car or your garage to put packages securely inside.

Other less invasive options include private mailbox and locker services or the ability to have your package delivered to a location like a local drugstore. There are even locked parcel boxes you can place on your property near your front door to protect your packages.

If you do have a package stolen that contains something valuable and the retailer or shipper are unwilling to work with you to replace it, another option is to check with your homeowner’s insurance to see if it covers the contents of the parcel. 

invest in a security system

Invest in a security system.

Finally, consider investing in a doorbell security system. Prevent Package Theft, an online resource to help battle Porch Pirates and an Amazon Services LLC affiliate mentions that security cameras reduce the chance of theft by up to 300 percent.  

The surveillance video captured might help you catch a thief or create the internet’s next best burglar-fail video.

  Speak with a security expert

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