By Gabe Turner & Security.org Research Team | Last Updated May 27th, 2020

The rapid rise of online shopping in recent years has given rise to package thieves, sometimes given the more innocent sounding name “porch pirates”. These burglars grab packages off doorsteps, often following delivery trucks around. The thefts are usually in broad daylight with little concern for cameras and security systems. Forty percent of Americans claim to have been victims of package theft at some point.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a further spike in online shopping, which has given rise to a spike in package theft. According to research we conducted the week of May 17- 23rd, an estimated 25 million U.S. households (or one in five) have been victims of porch pirates in the last 90 days.

Key Findings:

  • One in five Americans report being victims of package theft in the last 90 days, equating to 25 million households.
  • All home types, from apartments to mobile homes, are at a high risk of package theft.
  • Evidence is being shared with police by owners of doorbell cameras. Sixty-five percent of homeowners with doorbell cameras or security systems filed a report with police, compared to just 27 percent of homeowners without a system.

    Package thefts are rising as COVID-19 drives
    online shopping

    In March 2020, as COVID-19 was discovered in the US and states issued stay-at-home orders and closed stores, there was a sudden surge in online sales that had only been previously seen on a day like Cyber Monday. Consumers were unable or unwilling to go into a store and turned to delivery. Target saw 5 million people order from their website for the very first time over the last three months and reported an online sales jump of 141% from the previous year. Walmart saw a 74% growth in online sales, and Amazon has hired an additional 175,000 people to keep up with demand.

    This boost to an already all-time high number of package deliveries seems to have led to an increase in package thefts. Twenty percent of Americans report having had a package stolen over the last 3 months. This is surprisingly high considering that many people have been working from home and are able to bring in their packages more quickly than normal. The rise also comes during a time when many other types of crimes, including residential burglary, have dropped . Police in Bellevue, WA theorize that criminals who would otherwise rely on more brazen break-ins have fallen back on package theft. Bellevue has reported a 141% increase in mail theft during the current pandemic.

    No home type is safe from package theft

    While it may seem like living in a single-family home on a quiet residential street might offer some protection against theft, our survey shows that every type of dwelling is subject to package thieves. Apartment, townhome, and condominium residents report higher incidences of package theft, but almost 40% of those living in houses have had a package stolen.

    Most package thefts are not being reported to police

    Overall, just 41 percent of those who have had a package stolen in the last 3 months reported it to the police. Digging deeper, though, it turns out that consumers with security systems are gathering evidence against porch pirates. Sixty-five percent of homeowners with doorbell cameras or security systems filed a report with police, compared to just 27 percent of homeowners without a system.

    So what should you do when you suspect your package has been stolen?

    • Check your tracking information. Most deliveries come with the ability to track your package. If your tracking shows the package was delivered, see if there are any other

      details. It may specify that the package was left in a mailbox instead of at your door, or it could include a photo that will help you determine whether it was left at your front door.

    • Check with neighbors. Often a package gets mistakenly delivered to a nearby neighbor, especially in townhomes where addresses are very close together and GPS can be deceiving.
    • Contact the sender. Whether a company or someone you know, let the sender know you believe the package to be stolen. Many companies cover buyers for stolen packages and will let you know what the next steps are. Some sellers may ask you to contact the shipping company directly, in which case you may need to file a theft claim.
    • File a report with the local police. Many cities want you to report these thefts as it can help local authorities better track crime. Share video evidence if you have it as most porch pirates are repeat offenders.
    • Share the incident with your neighbors. Many neighborhoods have online discussion groups and your neighbors will appreciate being alerted.

    How to avoid or deter package theft

    A doorbell camera or home security system may be a deterrent for some porch pirates. Package thefts are one of the main reasons for the rise in sales of doorbell cameras in recent years. The thought of someone stealing from you can be unnerving and frustrating. Some other tactics experts suggest in order to avoid having a package stolen are:

    • Have your packages delivered to a secure location. Amazon has set up “lockers” in many major cities where your package will wait for you securely. Some shipping companies allow you to divert your package to a local retailer and pick it up by showing your ID. Some people have packages delivered to their office.
    • Add detailed delivery instructions. You could tell a delivery person to put the package in a place that can’t be seen easily, or request that the delivery require your signature so the package will not be left out all day.
    • Ask a neighbor to bring in your package. If you know a package will be sitting out all day and someone is home at a neighbor’s house you could ask if they are willing to hold onto it until you can get home.

    About Security.org Research and This Study

    We asked more than 600 American household decisionmakers the week of May 17th to 23rd, 2020 a set of detailed questions about their online purchases, home ownership and package deliveries. Security.org's research team focuses on physical safety, digital safety and identity theft. What it means to be safe has expanded beyond just home security and means protecting our personal and financial data and digital footprint. We study the issues facing modern society and partner with organizations and research institutions to broader America's understanding and awareness of digital safety.