“Christmas time is here, pirates everywhere.” So I’m a bit of a Peanuts Christmas movie fan. But in all seriousness, the darker side of the holiday season is just around the corner. With Cyber Monday fast approaching, there are predators lurking to snatch packages off your front stoop or doorway. Better known as “porch pirates” or “porch thieves,” they prey on unattended packages. Your packages.
In an effort to keep the forces of darkness at bay, I’m going to give you some tips and tricks to protect your deliveries. Some of these tips are new package protection technology. Others are older methods, and I’ll be giving you ideas on ways to enhance their effectiveness.
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What Are Porch Pirates?
Porch pirates are better known as porch thieves. They target homes with unattended packages, that are usually left in plain view. These holiday predators are opportunistic hunters and will seldom approach a house if they believe there are security measures in place. Experienced package thieves will cloak their face with a hoodie or hat in an effort to help conceal their identity.
In an effort to quell these opportunists, police have been staging fake packages to lure in porch thieves. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your packages are secure. There are two main avenues for protecting Christmas deliveries, on-site and off site security measures. Depending on where you live, choose your methods to help protect your investment.
On Site Security
1. Amazon Key
A relatively new, and revolutionary idea is the Amazon Key and comes to us from the folks over at Amazon. The premise behind this security measure is that when a package is delivered, you can open your front door for the delivery person. Then when they are done, you can lock the door behind them. Amazon Key comes with a bunch of features like:
- ability to lock/unlock your door from anywhere
- live streaming of video
- video recording
- two way audio
- and more!
Essentially, you’re taking steps toward a smart home conversion. This option requires some extensive work on your part due to hardware installation, including replacement of your doors lock. As a bonus, Amazon Prime members also get the option of “in car” delivery. While this option isn’t for everyone, if you own your own house it’s definitely worth giving a shot. I recommend you have a sun room or mud room where you can put packages, but also a lockable door that separates that room from the rest of the house.
Although this seems like the perfect solution, there are some drawbacks. First and foremost, this option isn’t available to everyone. Check the zip code checker on this Amazon page, to ensure this option is available to you. Furthermore, you’ll need a newer model (2015+) vehicle, if you’re looking to capitalize on the prime benefit of car delivery. And only certain makes are supported.
2. Dedicated Delivery Box with Lock
Another option to stop porch pirates is to install a dedicated delivery box. This box is labeled for deliveries, which makes it easy for the mailman to identify. However, timid thieves looking for an easy score likely won’t approach since the packages won’t be in plain view. More brazen porch thieves may come in for a closer look and see that this box is dedicated for delivery. Since the box is standalone and can easily be lifted, you’ll need to extra measures to prevent a Christmas bounty heist.
Obviously, a lock is essential, but having one that can be opened by the mailman is another issue. Fortunately, it’s made easier with the BoxLock available on Amazon. The premise behind this guy is that a package label specifically addressed to your residence must be scanned in order to open the lock.
Bolt It Down
The first step is to find a way to bolt the delivery box down. Depending on the material your porch is made of, this may be easier said than done. Securing the box to wood is simple, and you’ll probably be safe using a washer and some screws (or bolts) to hold it in place. Concrete slabs will require you to drill and use specialized concrete screws or bolts. I can verify that properly installed concrete screws are almost impossible to remove.
In lieu of securing the box to your porch, you can also disguise it. Get an old garden hose and cut off the end. Attach this to the outside of the box using epoxy or super glue to give the illusion that this is just another garden hose unit. This likely won’t deter the bravest of thieves, but it may help further deter a borderline thief from further investigation.
However, for those pesky porch pirates hell bent on getting into the box, pick up a micro security camera like this one on Amazon. Disguise this inside the box to allow video capture of the perpetrator. If you can’t afford one of these cameras, you could put a “Smile You’re On Camera” sign inside the lid. Simply the threat may be enough to scare the would be porch thief away.
No security measure is without it’s flaws. In this case, you’ll be relying on the delivery person to ensure that they lock the box back up after delivery. There’s a certain amount of human error that can’t be accounted for. Also, this technology is relatively new, and a learning curve is to be expected regarding delivery staff training. Finally, you probably won’t be fitting that new TV in the delivery box, so keep that in mind and consider one of the off-site delivery methods for big ticket items.
3. Smart Doorbell (with Camera)
This works well for identifying thieves when they approach and has a motion sensor which can alert your phone. If you’re considering this method of protecting your packages, I recommend reading the full review.
4. Enlist Help
Not to be forgotten in your list of security measures is enlisting the help of family and neighbors. If you’re lucky enough to have a stay at home parent who home schools their kid, have them keep an eye out for packages. Give them a heads up when you’re expecting a delivery, so they can monitor. If you trust them, you can even have them pull the package in their house until you return home.
Off Site Delivery
This section is tailored to those folks who don’t have the option to install delivery boxes and security cameras. If you live in an apartment complex or a place where the HOA doesn’t allow the above security measures, here’s some ideas to protect your Christmas deliveries.
5. Delivery Locker
Getting your parcel delivered to a locker location takes away any worries you might have. Unless the person decides to steal the entire pod of lockers, chances are your package is safe. Basically, you get a notification when the package is delivered to the locker. From there, depending on the platform, you will need to be authorized. Once verified, you’ll be able to access your package.
By far, the most widespread option are Amazon lockers. In order to obtain your package, you’ll need to enter the authorization code that gets sent to your email. This code is only good for three days, then your package will be shipped back for a refund. Therefore, don’t ignore the email!
Amazon lockers aren’t without their limitations. There are some caveats regarding what can be delivered, and you can read the full list for Amazon here. My biggest concerns are with package dimension limits. Having a package less than 20 lbs. can be difficult depending on the gift you’re buying. However, a 19″ x 12″ x 14″ means you won’t be getting any TV’s delivered using Amazon Locker.
FedEx Delivery Locker
Another options is the FedEx locker. Getting your package out of this requires you to enter part of your tracking number or door tag. From there you’re a signature away. However, if you’ve requested “Adult Signature” for added security, you’ll also need a government ID before getting your Christmas delivery.
Not unlike Amazon, there are limits on the size and weight of the package that can be delivered. However, FedEx gives you a little more wiggle room to secure your delivery. According to their website’s FAQ section, packages can weight up to a whopping 70 lbs. Unfortunately, the sizing is roughly the same and allows for packages that measure 15″ x 22″ x 17″.
UPS Delivery Locker
Yet another option is the UPS access point locker. Again, you’ll need to authorize the pickup by providing either a government issue ID or by getting an authorization code sent to your phone. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find package dimension limits on their site. However, I did take a picture of a local UPS access point near me (above) and it doesn’t look like there are lockers that accommodate larger packages.
Problems With Delivery Lockers
We’ve already covered the limitations on package sizing and weight. However, the bigger problem is finding a convenient location near you. Ideally, there will be a locker that you can access throughout your daily routine. Unfortunately, you’re at the whims of whichever company you use. Do some research on nearby locations before deciding on a mail delivery locker service.
6. Package Insurance
An oldie, but goodie, is package insurance. I highly recommend you get this for bigger ticket items, even if you take other precautions. You’ll need to work out this kind of shipping detail with the store you are buying from. Looking for details about shipping costs, check out the USPS site to make sure the store isn’t taking advantage of your request.
Unfortunately, this method doesn’t really prevent porch thieves from getting your goods. But it does protect your investment. I’m sure your family will understand having to wait a couple weeks until you can back-fill the stolen gift.
7. Require Signature
This is another service offered by the USPS and comes at an additional cost as well. However, this definitely isn’t for every package you get shipped. The cost can add up quickly, so consult the USPS site for details before deciding if this is the right option.
8. Pickup Packages
If you’ve got a large package and don’t want to pay for the insurance (or signature option), have the post office hold your package for you. I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but I frequently get the little pink slips in my mailbox or stuck to my front door.
Whenever I go to pick-up my packages I’m required to provide some form of picture ID with my residential address. I live in a fairly small town, so I’m able to pick up packages my girlfriend orders to my house as well. You’ll have to check whether your post office will allow this.
9. Deliver To The Office
Finally, for those of you fortunate enough to live in an apartment complex, you can opt to have your packages held at the main office. Check with your rental company first to ensure they’re available and willing to do this before you assume anything. Also, you’ll need to coordinate when you can pick up packages from the front office. Remember, the folks who work there don’t want to be waiting forever for you to come claim your delivery.
If you don’t live in a location with a rental office, try your actual place of business. My company makes us run all packages through the front desk. Your organization may have a similar policy or may not allow personal deliveries at all.
With all the great deals offered on Cyber Monday, I’m sure many of you will be getting packages delivered. I recommend a combination of on-site security measures to prevent porch pirates from grabbing your holiday deliveries. If some of the off-site delivery methods are available (e.g. Amazon Locker), I suggest you take advantage of them. The low cost (or no cost) options are great for saving some extra cash this holiday season. However, for big ticket gifts, don’t be afraid to spend a little extra to insure them. Have I missed anything? Let me know if you use any of these methods to keep your package deliveries safe, and any problems you’ve had in the comment section below.
This site (TheGiftasaurus.com) is owned and operated by Graphite Designs Unltd. LLC Graphite Designs Unltd. LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Graphite Designs Unltd. LLC also participates in affiliate programs with Clickbank, CJ, and other sites. Graphite Designs Unltd. LLC is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.