8 Ways to Stop Package Thieves in Their Tracks

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Nearly all of us are shopping online. In fact, about half of all households have Amazon Prime. But when those packages arrive at our doorstep, thieves may be waiting to pounce.

The No. 1 way to avoid having packages stolen is clear: Don’t buy online or via the mail. Instead, hark back to ye olde days of just a few years ago, when shoppers actually went to physical stores. But the lure of online shopping can be irresistible. Whether it’s a hard-to-find book from Amazon, a hand-crafted shirt from Etsy, or that vintage copy of the Beatles’ “White Album” from eBay, there are items we can’t purchase anywhere else.

It’s tough to completely foil porch robberies, but here’s a pack of practical ideas for stopping thieves in their tracks.

1. Have packages sent to work

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Many of us spend prime package-delivery hours miles from our home, in an office building or other business. So when possible, have a package sent to where you are instead of where you’re not. Not all bosses are thrilled with employees having packages delivered to work. But if your workplace is more laid-back, this could work. This is best for smallish packages, especially if you walk or take transit.

2. Use an Amazon locker — or consider Amazon Key

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Many of the packages landing on our porch come from Amazon. The company is working to solve the package-theft problem with various tech innovations. Amazon Key involves buying a kit that includes a security camera and then allowing delivery drivers to unlock your door and leave the package inside. For various reasons — including trust and privacy issues and escape-prone pets — this isn’t an easy sell with everyone.

Amazon Lockers are another smart option. They’re secure, self-service kiosks that accept delivery of your package and let you come pick it up day or night. In my neighborhood, there’s one at a grocery store and another at a 7-Eleven. But I live in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle. Search here to find your closest Amazon Locker.

3. Enlist a neighbor

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Some of us lucked out and landed great neighbors, those who trade off shoveling the sidewalk, feed the fish when we’re out of town and bring chicken soup when we’re sick. But other neighbors are a nightmare — think “Bewitched’s” nosy Gladys Kravitz come to life.

Should you luck into the first kind of neighbors, consider asking them to take in your deliveries for you. Pay them back with home-baked cookies or the occasional cat-sitting weekend when they’re out of town.

4. Install security cameras

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Security cameras can’t stop a theft, but they can record evidence of one. That might help the police catch the criminals after they’ve already taken off with your goods.

A visible security camera also can sometimes be all it takes to deter a crook, who might decide to look for easier pickings down the block.

5. Use vacation hold if you’ll be gone

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Maybe you work from home and have managed to safely handle all your package deliveries so far. That’s all well and good, until you head off on that well-deserved vacation.

Even if you haven’t ordered any packages to arrive while you’re gone, gifts or delayed orders could sneak up on you. Take the burden off your helpful neighbor and have your mail and packages held for you at the post office until you get back.

6. Consider a post office box

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Speaking of picking mail up at the post office, there’s always that old standby, a post office box. Sure, they look small, but packages too large to fit are held for you behind the counter, while a pickup slip is put in the box to let you know you have a box waiting.

Some companies won’t deliver packages to an address that’s simply a P.O. box number. But this isn’t necessarily a problem anymore. The U.S. Postal Service now offers customers at more than 6,400 post offices the option of using a P.B.S.A., or P.O. Box Street Address. You can also rent a similar private mailbox at the UPS Store.

7. Install a video doorbell

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Video smart doorbells, such as Ring, let you see who’s at your door even when you’re not at home. They utilize motion detectors, video cameras and Wi-Fi to act as a visual peephole, buzzing your phone or other device when someone’s at your door. Some also allow you to hear and speak to visitors.

Now, that won’t completely stop a thief, but it will let you know if a long-awaited package has been delivered, so you can head on home to get it. It also provides a recording of all action near your front door.

8. Buy or make a lock box

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Depending on the layout of your porch or front stoop, you might be able to build your own package-protector. A device as small as a fishing-tackle box or as large as a small shed can be chained and padlocked to a post. If you’re expecting a package, leave the lock open with instructions to the delivery person to lock it once they’ve placed your package inside.

If DIY is not your bag, there are plenty of these lockable boxes available for purchase. There’s also something in the works called BoxLock, a fancy internet-connected padlock. Delivery drivers use it to scan a package that you’re expecting, and it then pops open so they can unlock your provided storage box.

Have you had packages stolen off your doorstep? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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