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Published: May 10, 2024 5 min read

Online shopping is more popular than ever, and package theft is booming right alongside it.

The rise of so-called "porch pirates,” thieves who steal packages directly from people’s front steps, is making it riskier to have packages delivered to your home. More than one-third of respondents to a November 2023 survey from SafeWise said they had a package stolen last year, and 65% said they were more worried about losing a package to porch pirates than they were the year before.

Package-snatchers are getting more sophisticated, too. As the number of boxes delivered to American doorsteps has grown, “the methods employed by porch pirates have evolved,” Kathy Sides, the co-founder of Loxx Boxx, says.

Here’s what to look out for.

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Online location sharing

Online communities like Nextdoor and Facebook Groups are useful resources for keeping up with local news and events, but they also make it easy for porch pirates to “pinpoint vulnerable locations,” Sides says.

On Nextdoor, posts are often tagged by specific neighborhoods — with a little guesswork, an enterprising thief can zero in on the approximate location of a user who posts about a recent purchase they made, or complains about how long it takes for packages to arrive at their address. (Setting your account to “private” disables this feature.) Users who share photos of their house or yard on any social media platform — NextDoor or otherwise — further clue in potential thieves to the location of their homes, and the possessions they fill it with.

A seedy side hustle

Porch pirates often treat package theft as a full-time job, Sides says. When most people are at work, they roam from neighborhood to neighborhood, “shopping” for unattended packages left on doorsteps.

Some tail delivery vehicles from Amazon, UPS and other companies, striking “shortly after packages are dropped off,” she says. Others take it even further, and dress in disguise — sometimes pretending to be drivers themselves — to minimize the risk of getting caught. A few have gotten particularly audacious: In April 2024, a homeowner in California caught a porch pirate dressed as a trash bag on their home security camera.

Tag-team tactics

To increase their chances of success, porch pirates often work in pairs, Sides says.

“Typically, one pirate enters the neighborhood on foot while the other waits in a getaway car,” she says. “The partner can act as a lookout … while the other pirate steals packages from porches.”

By working together, porch pirates can cover more ground and target multiple homes in a neighborhood without drawing too much attention. This tag-team approach also makes it harder for victims to identify perpetrators of the crime, minimizing their risk of getting caught.

Tips for online shoppers

Anyone who shops online can fall victim to package theft, but certain factors increase your risk. Here's what to consider:

  • Delivery frequency: Consider grouping smaller orders into one large purchase to reduce the number of packages left unattended.
  • Place of residence: Porch pirates are more common in densely populated areas. If you live in an urban or suburban area, be extra vigilant.
  • Home security: Visible camera and alarm systems can deter thieves.
  • Package pickup: Opt for in-store pickup whenever possible. Otherwise, request signature confirmation for deliveries.

How to stop porch pirates

If someone steals your package, Sides recommends reporting it to your local police department so they have it on file.

“This can be especially impactful in neighborhoods where multiple thefts are reported,” she says, since it can help police identify repeat offenders.

Still, the surest way to stop porch pirates from stealing your packages is to eliminate the opportunity altogether. Investing in a home security system or video doorbell can help you stay on top of any activity that happens outside your front door. If you know you won’t be home when an order gets delivered, see if your carrier can hold it at a nearby location or storage locker. Failing that, lockable porch delivery boxes bring an extra layer of security — and peace of mind.

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