5 ways to thwart ‘porch pirates’ looking to steal your online purchases

With online retail on the rise, package theft is also going up. Here are 5 tips to keep porch pirates at bay.


Last week we wrote about staying secure when ordering off Amazon. Today, we’re looking at the other end of the transaction — when the package gets to your home.

Driving up to your home and seeing that box from Amazon, Zappos or some other online retailer sitting on your porch can be a welcome sight. Less welcome? Thinking how long it’s been out there and if, next time, someone might swipe it before we get home.

It’s not an empty fear. The theft of online packages by so-called porch pirates has spiraled in recent years, with one survey showing 31 percent of respondents experienced package theft.

With the holidays right around the corner and the UPS and FedEx drivers busily loading up porches, here are a few ways to protect your online purchases from thieves:

  1. Invest a security camera. This is a simple way to deter thieves while also capturing them in the act if they swipe your stuff anyway. There are plenty of these on the market nowadays, with one of the most common being the Ring or the Nest Cam.

I installed one of these at my home in just an hour or so, and it’s nice and visible above the front door. It connects to Wi-Fi, so you can see the stream from any device wherever you are. So far, no one’s pirated anything off of our porch.
There are plenty of other benefits of having a camera as well, ranging from seeing when the kids come home from school to watching squirrels devour the pumpkin we put by the front door.

  1. Have your stuff delivered elsewhere. Instead of having things shipped to your house, have it delivered to your work (if your work allows that). For Amazon, you can have it delivered to a nearby locker, if that’s available in your area. Many retailers offer in-store pickup for things ordered online — or maybe a friend or neighbor is OK accepting your packages.
  2. Get a delivery box. We got a small deck box for the delivery drivers to put items in. It’s not fool-proof, but keeping packages out of sight is still better than having them sitting in plain view.

A fancier version of this is a delivery box that can be combined with the BoxLock, a “smart padlock” with a scanner that only opens for a package addressed to you.

A less expensive option is the Porch Pirate bag, which locks to your front door handle. The delivery driver then puts the package in the bag and locks it. It’s not likely to deter a determined thief, but porch pirates go for the easy pickings, so anything that can slow them down might be enough to send them elsewhere.

  1. Go high-tech. If you’re comfortable with Internet of Things devices, you can get a smart lock on the front door or a smart garage door control. With the first, you wait until your porch cam alerts you to the delivery guy, then unlock the door remotely so they can put the package inside. You can do the same thing with the garage door. These require some vigilance on your part, so if you’re in a meeting or otherwise engaged when the FedEx guy shows up, it won’t work.

Another option along these lines is Amazon Key, which is a kit you purchase from you-know-who that combines a camera with a smart lock. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, it’s free after that to have any packages from Amazon left inside your home. This only works with Amazon home delivery, so it’s not available everywhere. You’ve also got to be OK with strangers having brief access to your home.

  1. If the pirates get to you anyway? Report it to the police, of course. Let the shipper know – they may just send you a new item at no charge. Be sure to use a credit card and not a debit card and check to see if your card offers any kind of purchase protection (many do).

Keep an eye on the local news, websites like Nextdoor or the community Facebook page to see if porch piracy is a problem in your area. If so, don’t wait to become the next victim. Using one of the tips above can mean the difference between happily opening that smiley-face package or dealing with the hassle of figuring out where it went.