Everything You Need to Know to Thwart Porch Pirates

Do your packages disappear before you get them? Here’s how to prevent package theft.

package theft porch pirates

Online commerce has exploded, and package thefts have grown along with online commerce. Fortunately, so have ways to prevent it. / Photograph by AvailableLight, Getty Images

Ordering goods online and having them delivered to your door offers ultimate convenience. But often enough, the goods you order won’t be at your door if you’re not home to receive them when they arrive. A 2021 survey by Consumer Reports found that 11 percent of Americans had a package stolen in the previous year. Another survey conducted in October 2023 by Security.org found that 17 percent of Americans — 44 million, to put a figure on it — had a package stolen in the previous three months. And a full 44 percent have had at least one package stolen in their lifetimes.

And package-swipers don’t care where you live: Suburbanites and city-dwellers alike make attractive targets. So what can you do to make yourself a less attractive one? Read on for solutions to combat porch pirates.

Schedule deliveries for when you’re at home.

Many retailers allow you to specify a time window for deliveries.

Ask a friend or neighbor to receive your package.

Do this before you place your order, because you will either need to enter a different shipping address for your package when you order it, or redirect its delivery after it gets shipped (see below for more about this last).

Have your package diverted to or held at a pickup point.

If USPS, UPS or FedEx is shipping your package, you can use their tracking services to either deliver your package to one of their offices or hold it for delivery on a certain date and time. Usually, you must wait until the company has made one attempt to deliver your package; however, USPS allows you to intercept a package that has yet to be delivered and redirect it to a location you specify via its website.

FedEx also offers drop-off and pickup services at many Walgreens drugstores.

Have the delivery person leave the package inside your house.

Some retailers now allow you to give their delivery drivers codes or permission for them to leave packages at an interior location such as a foyer or garage. For example, Walmart offers Walmart Plus members InHome service for an additional fee; the Walmart delivery driver can even put groceries in your fridge or pantry.

Sign up for a secure package locker.

If you buy items on Amazon, you can have them delivered to a secure Amazon package locker near you. Here’s how to do that.

If you live in the Chesterbrook, King of Prussia, Radnor, Valley Forge or Wayne areas, you can also have your packages delivered to USPS Smart Lockers at their Southeastern Sorting and Delivery Center (SDC) on Valley Road in Wayne.

USPS offers Smart Lockers free of charge; Amazon lockers are free for Amazon Prime members.

package theft porch pirates

This package delivery box resembles a chest freezer and is also insulated to keep frozen and refrigerated items cool. / Photo from BoingBoing, licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0

Buy a package dropbox for your home.

You can buy these on Amazon and at hardware and home improvement stores for anywhere from $60 to $160. One inexpensive, clever version sold on Amazon conceals your packages behind what looks like a hedge. (But if keeping your packages secure as well as hidden matters, it has neither a lid nor locks.)

Fancier drop boxes like the one pictured above will run a good deal more. Or, if you’re a die-hard DIYer, you can build one yourself.

Rent a post office box or mailbox.

Post office boxes let you receive mail securely and pick it up on your schedule (if the post office is open at the time). Some senders, however, will only deliver packages to street addresses.

If you rent a private mailbox at a mailbox store, you also get a physical street address you can use for package delivery. The UPS Store has locations throughout the region, but you will find that most local shipping and mailbox stores offer extra services like notary, package pickup and even package delivery if you can’t get to the store when it’s open. In addition to UPS, here are some local businesses offering mailbox and shipping services in the city:

Install a doorbell camera.

Thieves don’t like having their pictures taken. These devices feed images directly to your smartphone so you can see what’s happening at your front door when you’re away. They will also record what they see so you have a record for the cops. More sophisticated models will work with home security and alarm systems.

Install security cameras around your house.

Why stop at the doorbell?

Buy a house with an alcove front door.

You will then have a concealed place for delivery people to leave your packages. But this is the costliest option of all, unless you were planning on moving anyway.