April 10, 2024

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Stop porch pirates: 7 practical tips to prevent stolen packages

Stop porch pirates: 7 practical tips to prevent stolen packages

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

It’s almost Black Friday, which for many holiday gift givers means one thing: online shopping, and waiting for all those packages to arrive in the mail. The last thing you want is for any of your delivered gifts to disappear before you ever find them on your porch. 

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Unfortunately, this happens pretty often: A 2020 study found that 43{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} of respondents reported having a package stolen — up from 36{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} just one year before. And of those who had a package stolen, more than half reported it had happened more than once.

So how can you avoid becoming the victim of porch pirates? We’ve got seven practical tips to help you protect your packages this season. (And if you’re planning on sending packages, check out our shipping price comparison for USPS, FedEx and UPS to get the best deal. You can also check out six places every home should have security cameras, and the best cheap home security systems you can buy.

Use package tracking

Every major delivery company and the US Postal Service now gives updates on when a given package will arrive. In most cases, you can track its progress and see when it’s been placed on the truck for delivery. Finally, the tracking will be updated when your package has been delivered.

The simplest way to avoid porch pirates is to use this tracking information to quickly retrieve your package once it’s delivered. If you’re not able to be home during the delivery, you can also have someone else keeping an eye on your doorstep that day. Limiting the time between delivery and retrieval is a simple, straightforward way to avoid porch piracy.

Install a video doorbell

Video doorbells are becoming an increasingly popular way of protecting homes. Brands like Ring, Arlo and Nest sell doorbells that double as home security cameras. When someone rings the doorbell, you can see a live video feed and hear what your visitor is saying. And the camera allows for two-way audio, meaning you can talk to whomever is on your porch.

Having a doorbell security camera can benefit you in a few ways. First, burglars and thieves tend to be discouraged by security alarms. Someone thinking of stealing your package might see the security camera and think again.

A black and gray Ring Video Doorbell Wired from 2021 is installed on a white doorframe besides a light blue door.

Video doorbells can be good deterrents to would-be porch pirates.


In addition to deterrence, many of these video doorbells come with motion sensors and a notification system, which sends an alert when someone is on your front porch — and even allows you to initiate two-way talk. If a delivery person is at your door, you can give them instructions, such as tucking the box behind a particular post or plant. If it’s a potential porch pirate, you can let them know that they’re on camera.

Thanks to how popular these doorbell cameras have become, they’re widely available at competitive prices. You can easily find a great one for under $150.

Have your packages delivered to Amazon lockers

You can’t always control when a package will be delivered or whether you’ll be home to retrieve it. The good news is that there are options to change the delivery location and ensure the safety of your package.

Amazon offers a delivery option called Amazon Locker. The company has lockers at various locations, from pharmacies to convenience stores. Rather than having a package delivered to your front door, you can choose to have it delivered to a nearby locker.

You’ll receive a notification when your package is delivered, just as you normally would. When you get to the locker, you’ll use the code that Amazon sends you, which will trigger the opening of the locker. No one can get the package without your code, so you know it’s safe until you can pick it up.

Invest in a porch lockbox

With porch piracy unfortunately becoming more common, many companies now manufacture lockboxes specifically designed for receiving packages.

a porch lock box for your packages

Lock boxes for your front porch are another option, though they’ll likely cost you a couple hundred bucks.

Molly Price/CNET

When you order an item online, you’ll give instructions for the delivery driver to open your porch lockbox. Some have a slot for drivers to drop small items into but require a key to open. Others require a code that you can provide for the delivery driver.

This type of lockbox isn’t necessarily the most affordable option: High-quality lockboxes can easily cost hundreds of dollars. But if you often receive valuable packages or live in an area known for package theft, it might be worth it.

Require signature on delivery

In most cases, delivery drivers simply leave packages on porches or at front doors. But that’s not the only option. Most companies also give the option to require signature on delivery. In that case, the driver can’t leave the package unless you’re there to sign.

This strategy can be inconvenient if you’re not often home during the day, and a few missed deliveries can lead to packages being returned to the sender. But for a valuable package, it might be worth waiting to ensure it’s not sitting unattended on your porch.

Purchase a mailbox sensor

A mailbox sensor is a small device that attaches to your mailbox and notifies you when it’s been opened. You can find out when your mail is delivered, as well as if someone is opening your mailbox that shouldn’t be.

Ring Mailbox Sensor in a mailbox

Mailbox sensors can give you more immediate information regarding your deliveries — especially for smaller parcels.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

Ring is just one of the companies that offers this product and allows you to pair your mailbox sensor with the rest of your home security system. You can arrange it so when your mailbox is opened, your doorbell camera or another home security camera begins recording.

When you open the video feed, you’ll know if someone is opening your mailbox who shouldn’t be. And while you may not be able to stop someone from stealing your package, you’ll at least have the video evidence.

Make it clear you have a home security system

Studies have shown that your home is less likely to be subject to theft if it’s clear you have a home security system of some kind.

According to data collected by a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 83{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} of burglars try to determine whether a house has a home security system. If security is present, 87{6932ee47e64f4ce8eedbbd5224581f6531cba18a35225771c06e4f1b3f0d9667} would move onto another home.

So how do you make it clear your home is secure and encourage potential thieves to move along? Obvious signs such as security cameras on the exterior of your home can be enough. Many home security companies also provide their customers with signs to place on the front yard.

Finally, you can take advantage of the benefits of a home security system without actually having one. Some companies sell fake security cameras and yard signs for those who simply want to give the impression that they have a home security system — though with the rise of the $20 security camera, it’s not hard to justify the few dollars extra to simply buy the real thing.

For more information on protecting your home against burglars and thieves, visit our list of the best home security systems of 2022. And if you’re looking for home safety tips that go beyond your front porch, check out this guide to prevent car break-ins, and these tips for improving your home security now

The best home security devices you can buy now