With little more than two weeks of shopping until Christmas Day, experts predict another record-setting year for online sales.
But with the fast-growing market for delivered goods, consumers face greater risk of falling victim to an ever-increasing threat — porch pirates.
So-called porch-pirates are thieves who — either acting alone on impulse or working systematically in teams — steal delivered retail packages from homeowners’ porches before they can bring the goods indoors.
Such thefts may represent easy targets as online retailers routinely deliver purchased goods without requiring a signature, often to addresses where no one is home during the day.
In November, Security.org published a report based on FBI crime data from 2017, which revealed Arizona to be the 9th worst state in the U.S. for incidents of larceny, with a rate of 2,107 reported crimes for every 100,000 residents.
“Larceny accounts for nearly three-quarters of property crime, making such thefts incredibly common throughout the entire nation. The average value of items taken per larceny-theft incident was $1,007, and the total estimated value of all items stolen through larceny was nearly $6 billion in 2017,” Security.org state in its report.
The FBI data does not distinguish porch piracy from other forms of theft, but the overall rate of thefts provides a good indicator of risk, the report suggests.
From worst down, the top five most-victimized states were the District of Columbia, New Mexico, Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina.
From best, the top five least-victimized states were Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Idaho.
But unlike the blizzard-blown porches of New England states, there won’t likely be any snow to shield the presence of vulnerable deliveries on porches across Phoenix.
And one expert says the rash of porch piracy is just heating up.
Adobe tracks online shopping trends to provide real-time sales data through its Adobe Analytics online service.
The software giant reported record online sales for the 2019 holiday shopping season thus far, with an estimated $1.7 billion spent online up to Cyber Monday last week.
Even with only 17 days left to shop, Adobe predicts Americans will buy another $1.9 billion in online goods before Christmas Day — and a great portion of those goods will be delivered to untended porches in beige, smiley-faced boxes.
In an October report, Safewise.com echoed concerns for online shoppers, citing 2017 data which revealed 26 million Americans had packages stolen that year.
The security retailer offered some tips to avoid becoming a victim of porch pirates this time around.
A variety of affordable doorway cameras are available, which can record anyone who comes near and alert homeowners in real time.
Some products, such as smart doorbells, also provide a direct link to the live camera feed via smartphone and thousands of criminals have already been caught on video, according to the report.
“A Google search for news about package thieves caught on camera brought up more than 40,000 results. Look for cameras with motion detectors that can alert you to movement on the porch via your smartphone or other mobile device. Cameras that record and play back activity are also helpful in the event you do get a delivery swiped,” Safewise.com stated.
But surveillance cameras are not fool proof, however. Many thieves are already hip to door cameras and take steps to obscure their faces.
Even under the best of circumstances, dealing with law enforcement to seek justice and restitution represents a time-consuming hassle, unlikely to resolve in time for Christmas.
A decided lo-tech approach may involve getting acquainted with the humans tasked with bringing packages to the home.
Beyond the local postal carrier, some delivery company drivers work specific territories and neighborhoods daily.
Becoming friendly with delivery people can help them understand a homeowner’s preferences, allowing them to use discretion when dropping off eagerly anticipated packages.
Large delivery retailers, such as Amazon, provide delivery locker locations throughout the community, such as those located as some Quik Trip stores.
Instead of having them dropped at an empty house, packages may be delivered to a pre-selected drop box, where the purchaser can retrieve the item at their convenience, in public view and at no additional cost.
Some homeowners may opt to add a locking mailbox, providing greater security for all deliveries, including regular mail.
Those looking to upgrade, should take care to ensure the box they choose is approved for use with the postal service, as well as major carriers, such as FedEx and UPS.
Another quaint but effective option is to communicate with neighbors about important or expensive deliveries.
When the house is likely to be empty throughout the day, homeowners may ask their neighbors to watch for and pick up packages; or otherwise coordinate to have the packaged delivered to a neighbor who is home during the day.
This is an easy favor to return and such an alliance, once established, can be beneficial to all parties.
Though potentially less convenient, especially during the high-traffic holiday season, one no-miss option is to schedule items for delivery and pickup at the post office or at retail outlets.
The USPS, FedEx and UPS all offer options to have packages delivered to brick-and-mortar locations, where the purchaser will be required to show ID and sign for receipt.