With many of us trying to limit our face-to-face interactions, we're taking advantage of the convenience of online shopping. But buying online opens us up to a big risk: package theft. Packages may sit on the front porch all day while we're at work or days at a time if we're on vacation, which gives thieves plenty of time to snag them. And if a package is stolen, you may not have much recourse. Neither retailers nor delivery companies are responsible for packages after they've been dropped off, and may or may not offer to replace the product. While you can (and should) file a police report for stolen items, that usually won't get your items back.
Instead, let's talk about how to avoid having your packages stolen in the first place.
1. Schedule deliveries with the shipping company
It can be hard to tell when your packages will show up, which makes it difficult to be at home to accept delivery. Fortunately, you can set up notifications with delivery services that will let you know exactly when your package will arrive and reschedule it or have it held for pickup.
Notifications are free, but sometimes rescheduling a package will cost you a fee. Sign up for notifications from UPS, FedEx or USPS to see your alternate delivery options. FedEx will also let you select a nearby Walgreens for delivery (there are 8,000 nationwide and many are open 24 hours), where you can pick up the package.
2. Add delivery instructions to keep packages off the front porch
In some cases, you can add extra delivery instructions to your order. You could ask them to leave items by a side door where they won't be easily spotted by thieves. Look for a "delivery instructions" option when you're entering shipping information, then add any details that can help secure your package.
3. Have packages left inside with Key by Amazon In-Garage Delivery
It doesn't get any more convenient than Key by Amazon In-Garage Delivery, which lets delivery staff open your garage door and leave your package inside. When you get home, your items are waiting for you, safe and sound.
That may sound like a big security risk, but Amazon offers a number of features to make sure your home and your packages are safe. For in-garage delivery, here's what happens:
- Before your driver arrives, you'll receive an alert with an expected delivery window
- When the driver arrives, they'll scan you package to send a request to Amazon open your garage door
- Amazon verifies that the driver has your package is at your address
- Amazon notifies you that your package is being delivered
- Amazon opens your garage door, without providing the driver with a keycode
- The driver puts the package just inside your garage
- The driver tells Amazon to close your garage
- Amazon lets you know that the package has been delivered and that your garage door is securely closed.
Amazon can record the delivery using an Amazon Key eligible camera — Ring Indoor Cam ($59.99), Ring Stick Up Cam ($99.99), or the myQ Smart Garage Camera ($149.00) — which you can watch live or later. That should give you peace of mind that your home is completely secure.
First, check to make sure the service is available in your location by checking your zip code on Amazon (you'll need to scroll down to find it). If you are eligible, you'll need a myQ Smart Garage Control ($29.99, check price on Amazon), which works with your existing garage door opener. If you already have a myQ account, you just need to connect it with your Amazon account and you'll be ready to go.
4. Completely customize your delivery options with TaskRabbit
If you don't want to brave the mall, someone else can always do it for you. TaskRabbit can pick up items from just about anywhere and bring them straight to you.
Simply go to TaskRabbit, describe what you need to be done, and then select a Tasker from a list of qualified individuals. You'll pay for services by the hour, and the rate varies depending on the Tasker you select. That can be pricier than other options, but TaskRabbit lets you customize exactly how and when you'll receive a delivery — something you won't get from other services.
5. Watch for deliveries and package thieves with a video doorbell
Though a video doorbell can't stop a thief from stealing a package, it can act as a deterrent. When the delivery person rings the bell, you can speak with him or her and instruct the person as to where to leave the package. And, like a security camera, video doorbells are motion activated and will capture video of anyone approaching your front door. So if a person doesn't ring the bell and steals your package, you'll have a video of the thief to give to the police.
Getting a video doorbell is an upfront expense, and requires installation. After your camera is set up, it may require a subscription for cloud recording, which will add up. Think of a video doorbell as an investment in home security instead of a simple package tracker.
Our favorite video doorbell is the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 ($249.99, check price on Amazon) or if you currently have a wired doorbell and are looking for a budget option, the Ring Video Doorbell Wired ($59.99, check price on Amazon) would be our choice.
6. Pick an alternate delivery location
The easiest way to avoid package theft is simply not to have packages left on your porch in the first place. Having it delivered to an alternate location where someone is available to accept it on delivery is a safe and often free way to avoid package theft. Consider delivering your package to:
- A local relative or trusted neighbor who will be home to pick it up when it arrives. You can even reroute FedEx and UPS packages to another residential address
- Your office, where there's probably always someone on-hand to accept delivery
- A P.O. box or UPS mailbox, though be aware that these have a monthly rental cost and not all PO boxes will accept packages — find out before you rent!
If you're shopping from Amazon, however, there's another option: Amazon Hub. Amazon Hub is a network of Amazon Hub Locker locations with self-service lockers and Amazon Hub Counters that are stores where you can pick up your package (convenience stores, drug stores, Whole Foods locations and more).
These Amazon-branded lockers or are available in more than 900 cities, and Amazon can deliver packages directly to a Locker or Counter rather than to your door. Here's how it works:
- Search for a locker or counter location near you on the Amazon Hub page or when selecting shipping options at checkout
- Select the Locker or Counter location you want
- Complete checkout as normal
- When your package is delivered, Amazon will email instructions on how to pick up your package
- Pick up your package from the Amazon Hub Locker within three days or within 14 days at the Amazon Hub Counter to avoid it being returned
7. Opt for curbside pickup at a local store
Practically every retailer with physical stores will let you to pick up purchases curbside at your local store rather than have it delivered to you. This can be a really convenient option, particularly for big retailers like Best Buy, Target, Home Depot and Walmart which have locations everywhere. As a bonus, there's usually no fee for curbside pickup.
When you're checking out, just look for the in-store pickup shipping option and select the store nearest you. If the item is in stock, you can usually pick it up on the same day. When your order is ready, head to the store, confirm your pickup, and someone will put your purchases in your trunk.
Updated on 10/22/2021 with new delivery options
[Image credit: package on doorstep via BigStockPhoto]