Ever done the “porch package double take?” This isn’t a TikTok dance move. It’s your head spinning back around at your front steps where a package that arrived while you were at work should’ve been. You know it arrived either because Amazon sent you a text message or your package-detecting security camera beamed you a snapshot of the delivery. Now what?
First off, about one in three U.S. homes can expect to have a run-in with a porch pirate this year,1 so if this has happened to you, you’re not alone. It’s impossible to say just how many packages that translates into, but in metropolises like New York City and Washington, D.C., reports show that 90,000 deliveries go MIA every day.2
So let’s assume the worst case scenario: your package is gone — lost or stolen, you don’t know which. Now you want to know why this happened, what you can do to make it better, and how you can protect yourself in the future. Here’s a home security expert’s two cents.
>> Check Out: Is Your Home a Magnet for Porch Pirates?
Pro Tip: Our tests show that the easiest way to keep track of your deliveries is to install a video doorbell with package detection.
Why Packages Disappear: The Usual Culprits
There are two main reasons packages go missing. They either never arrive or they arrive and get stolen. The first scenario, it goes without saying, is the better of the two. Delivery delays happen. If you access your tracking info, you’ll usually find out what happened. It may take a little persistence, but most of the time you’ll eventually either get what you ordered or get a refund.
Our second culprit is a package thief, aka your neighborhood porch pirate. On a home invasion scale of one to 10, these selfish goons might only score a three. But it’s still immensely galling to see our stuff disappear into the trunk of a drive-by lowlife — especially when the stuff in question is just the napkins and paper towels you ordered for your kid’s birthday party.3
>> Related: Recovering Lost or Stolen Items
Porch piracy is also frustrating because there’s no rhyme or reason to the average porch pirate’s behavior. As long as your home is on a road and you don’t have a pit bull napping on your front porch, your residence is fair game.
Of course, the type of home security equipment you’ve got in place plays a role. We’ll get into that down below. For now, just understand that if you thought you didn’t have the kind of house or neighborhood that’s attractive to package thieves, you’re probably wrong.
>> Also see: Burglary vs. Robbery: What’s the Difference?
Did You Know? Lawmakers in Texas are predictably tough on porch pirates. Beefed-up laws on stoop sneaks come with fines of up to $10,000 and 10-year prison stints.4
What to Do If Your Package Is Lost or Stolen
1. Check Your Tracking Info
Assuming your package wasn’t stolen, your first step should be to track it online. For Amazon purchases, just find your order and click “Track package.” It’s possible your stuff is sitting at the local post office. If days stretch into weeks and you can see that your Spanx are still languishing in a warehouse in Berlin, you can skip to Step 3 below.
>> Learn more: 2024 U.S. Burglary Statistics
2. Ask Your Neighbors If They Saw Anything Weird
If someone stole your package, or you suspect someone stole your package, talk to your neighbors ASAP. You should do this even if you’ve got your own footage of the theft, by the way. Your Blink Mini might not see all the way down to the street, but your neighbor’s heavy-duty Lorex 4K could have captured a license plate, car make, or even a face. This could help police ID the perp. Getting the word out on pirates is also just good neighborly behavior and gives you better odds of catching a thief in action. Ten eyes are better than two.
>> Further Reading: The Best Security Cameras for Image Quality
3. Contact the Seller
If your package was lost in transit, Amazon almost always gives refunds or sends out replacements. If you ordered from a third-party seller on Amazon, however, you’re going to have to reach out to the seller first. For all other retailers, check refund/replacement policies for lost items because they vary.
When thieves steal stuff from our doors, we’re entering muddier waters, because stores aren’t legally responsible for what happens post-delivery. They’ve got the tracking info and it shows the order made it to our address.
Try to get a replacement anyway. Many legitimate retailers are going to try and make us happy. Our business is worth more than a box of stolen Pampers. They also want to avoid credit card payment disputes, aka chargebacks, so hopefully you won’t have to proceed to the next step.
>> Also See: 5 Clever Tips to Stop Porch Pirates in Their Tracks
FYI: Urban legend has it that if you have an issue with an Amazon refund and you email firstname.lastname@example.org, your issue will be resolved pronto.
4. Complain to the Shipper
Like I said, retailers and sellers that want our business in the future don’t want to make us jump through hoops to get our missing stuff. On the other hand, delays and mix-ups do happen, occasionally on UPS’s end. So retailers may ask you to file a claim with the shipper and/or wait a few days before they officially declare your package lost. If this is what it takes to get a replacement or refund, I recommend doing it.
>> Check out: What to Do After a Home Burglary?
5. See If Your Credit Card Covers the Loss
My mind doesn’t instantly flash to Amex Platinum when I think of lost packages, but folks do sometimes fall back on purchase protection when deliveries go missing and sellers won’t cough up.
Keep in mind that each credit card company has its own cap and window for filing claims. Amex, for instance, pays out up to $10,000 per item and gives you 90 days to file a claim — more than enough to cover a stolen tub of protein powder (or 300 of them). Standard cards, however, may only be good for up to $500 in protection.
One caveat here: Unlike retailers, who don’t want to put us through the wringer for lost purchases, credit card companies might. For expensive losses, your credit card provider may ask you to contact the police (you should anyway) and/or file an insurance claim first.
6. Don’t Forget to Tell the Police
Package thefts are isolated events until homeowners reach out to law enforcement. Once the thefts are reported, they become dots on a map. If there are enough dots, they become a rash of crimes. When you’ve got a rash, police (and fellow neighbors) will start taking the issue seriously. So if you do fall victim to porch piracy, report the crime.
>> Also see: 5 Things Burglars Don’t Want You to Know
7. Get Some Home Security!
Your kids’ birthday packages were stolen two feet away from where you were standing inside. Without proof, all you’ve got is a bunch of unanswerable questions: who, when, why? The last one, I can’t answer. The “who” and “when” a budget security camera or video doorbell could have. You don’t need anything more than that to foil a porch pirate with half a brain. Read on for some tips to get started.
>> Read More: Best Video Doorbells
Pro Tip: If porch pirates are hitting your neighborhood hard, consider BOPIS — Buy Online Pickup In Store. Read on for how it works with Amazon.
4 Tips for Foiling Porch Pirates
Your package is gone and you’ve determined it was a thief, not FedEx or DHL. Here’s how you can make sure it never happens again:
1. Install an Outdoor Security Camera or Video Doorbell (and Check Those Alerts)
When you see a CCTV sign outside a restaurant, you don’t think twice. A thief sees that same sign and he’s made a mental note of it: Don’t loiter here. This is the logic behind using cameras as deterrents. It’s also why, if you’ve got a package theft problem, I’d recommend installing an outdoor camera a wannabe porch pirate can see from the driveway.
I already mentioned the Lorex 4K up top. This is a beast. Read my full Lorex Security Camera review for more on that. But the new SimpliSafe Wireless Outdoor camera is also a capable porch protector and it comes with package detection. Here’s my full SimpliSafe review.
>> Check out: Our Top Outdoor Security Camera Picks
The other key advantage security cameras and video doorbells give you against porch pirates is motion-activated alerts. All standard cameras come with them, whether you’ve got a professional monitoring service watching over your home or not. Once you toggle on those notifications, you’ll know the second you’ve got a visitor. Plus, you’ll have documentation of their visit. Depending on the camera model you’ve installed, you may also be able to trigger an alarm from wherever you happen to be.
>> Further Reading: Compare These Top Video Doorbells
2. Ship to an Amazon Hub
You can remove thieves from the equation entirely by shipping your stuff directly to an Amazon Hub. I’ll admit, for a lot of us this may be a hassle, but for expensive deliveries that weigh less than 10 pounds (locker) and up to 33 (counter), it’s our safest bet. Obviously, this is only for Amazon deliveries. If you’re ordering from another retailer/seller, scroll down.
3. Require a Signature
Both UPS and FedEx offer this option. You pay a few bucks more, but you’re guaranteed a person-to-person delivery. Of course, this means you’ll have to be at home to receive your stuff. Amazon also gives you the option to require a signature, by the way, but only for deliveries over $400.
4. Consider Shipping Packages to a Nearby Family Member Around Holiday Season
This is the least convenient option on the list, but if Mom’s around for the holidays and she lives nearby, send your packages there. This could work with Aunt Flora or a neighbor, too. If you work in a small office, you could even consider receiving your stuff there.
Did You Know? Package theft is tough on consumers, but it’s even tougher on small businesses, which can’t really afford to eat the costs of replacing stolen products.
Package theft is like everything else in life. There’s always a risk and no precautions are foolproof. A dumb criminal might not notice a video doorbell. Your neighborhood could get targeted and there’s nothing you can do about that. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pirate-proof your home.
Investing in a quality security camera and/or video doorbell, and putting them in conspicuous places, is your best defense against the average delivery bandit. If your neighborhood’s seen a lot of package theft, I’d also consider requiring a signature for deliveries or sending your Amazon purchases to a hub until the thieves have been caught.
After that, consider banding together with your neighbors. One determined neighbor is one thing. A whole block of them on the lookout for the thieves that stole their kids’ birthday napkins is quite another.
Lost or Stolen Package Frequently Asked Questions
Recent reports suggest that as many as one in three Americans has had a package stolen this year.
Not always, but you should always reach out. Many of them have delivery insurance and none of them want to deal with angry customers or credit card chargebacks.
Report the theft to the police, get the word out in the neighborhood, check about a replacement or refund, and buy a camera or a video doorbell. Scroll up for some suggestions.
Package thieves are unpredictable, but like most thieves, many of them like to stay clear of cameras. So make sure you have one and that it’s visible. If your neighborhood is a porch pirate hot spot, you can also take some of the additional measures I outlined above.
Yes! Always contact the police. The more info they have, the harder it is for pirates to circulate undetected.