7 Easy Ways to Outsmart Porch Pirates and Protect Your Holiday Packages

A woman steals packages off the front porch of a home.
Getty Images

Thanks mostly to Jack Sparrow, we have come to romanticize the idea of pirates.

But pirates are thieves, and they do not work exclusively on sailing ships or in port towns.

They operate in your neighborhood as porch pirates, who steal packages dropped off by the popular delivery services such as Amazon, Walmart and other big retailers.

There are ways to stop these porch pirates so that you can shop electronically in peace, knowing your package will reach you safely and securely.

7 Ways to Stop Porch Pirates Once and for All

A study by SafeWise found that in 2022, 79% of online shoppers had been victims of package theft in the calendar year, an estimated loss of $19.5 billion.

Of those polled shoppers, 35% said they had precautionary security camera or video doorbell technology available to them at the time of the theft. (And 17% caught the thief on camera).

A total of 8% of surveyed said they had a lockbox or package delivery locker in place.

Porch pirates inspired 26% of people to install a home security system after a theft, the SafeWise study reported, and nearly half of porch pirate victims rallied neighbors to help protect packages in their neighborhood.

Want to protect yourself from porch pirates? We’ve got seven tips.

1. Make Delivery Requests

Some online ordering systems allow you to make delivery requests, like putting the package in a secure area. Making a request doesn’t guarantee that it will be met, but you may be surprised at how attentive delivery people are when dropping off your goods. “Leave on basement steps” or “upstairs neighbor can sign” are simple instructions that can help ensure your package gets to you.

If you happen to run into your regular local USPS, UPS or FedEx carrier, you may be able to make requests in person. But keep in mind that your neighborhood delivery person may already have the best intel on which bushes are ideal for concealing packages.

2. Work With a Neighbor

If you have neighbors who use delivery services the way you do, talk with them to see if you can work  together to thwart package theft. If you have alternating or overlapping schedules, agree to pick up each other’s packages when they are delivered so that evildoers don’t get to them first.

3. Get Packages Delivered to Your Workplace

Depending on your workplace environment, you may be able to get packages delivered to the office rather than to your home, assuming the office setting is less likely to leave packages unattended.

Hauling items home can be cumbersome later, but if you want eyes on a package ASAP, your workplace may be your best bet.

4. Pay for a Package Receipt Service

This isn’t the cheapest option, but it may be the most secure. Some businesses offer to receive packages for customers for a small fee. Do an internet search for “package delivery acceptance services” to see what is available in your area.

5. Get Your Stuff Delivered to an Amazon Locker

It’s not quite as convenient as home delivery or the corner store, but if you’d rather have your Amazon package delivered to a secure location, add an Amazon Locker location to your account.

Amazon will deliver the package to the locker and when it’s ready for pickup, you’ll receive an email with a six-digit code to pick up the package from the self-service kiosk.

Lockers are located in stores, apartment buildings and malls across the United States, which offers you convenient times to pick up packages on in the evenings or on weekends.

And if you’re a Prime member, you get to use the lockers for free.

6. Watch Your Tracking Info Like a Hawk

Take advantage of available technology. Keep an eye on the tracking package services offer so you have a more precise idea when your package will be delivered and you can plan accordingly.

Frequently, you can sign up for text or email updates on your package’s journey, and if you miss a delivery you need to sign for, you can sometimes have the package rerouted to a shipping service center, like the UPS Store, so the delivery person doesn’t spend three days knocking on your door.

The postal service even offers Informed Delivery, which sends you images of small pieces of mail that are on their way to your mailbox that day.

7. Let Pirates Know You are Watching Them

If you’re willing to make a bigger investment, home security systems like the Ring or Nest doorbell cameras can let you monitor your front door — and the police department can use the footage to track down the porch pirates. Such devices send notifications to your phone through an app that records every motion that occurs at or even near your front door. In some cases, that includes every car that drives by. But, it also records every human visitor you get, authorized or not.

Because such devices are visible, they can act as a deterrent to thieves who are camera-shy.

If the worst-case scenario happens, detailed tracking information and video can help make a case to your credit card company, which may reimburse you for lost or stolen packages, or it could help you get a replacement item from the retailer.

Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

Lisa Rowan is a former senior writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.