UNITED STATES NEWS

Were your package deliveries stolen? What to know about porch piracy and what you can do about it

Dec 20, 2023, 12:27 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — You found the perfect holiday gift online. You ordered it. A notification arrived on your phone, showing the package had arrived. But when you open your doors, the parcel is nowhere to be found.

If this has happened to you, then count yourself among the unlucky group of shoppers who fall victim to package thefts — or porch piracy, as its commonly known.

Here’s what you should know about the issue, and what to do if it happens to you.

How big of a problem is porch piracy?

It’s hard to tell. Most police departments don’t track package theft in its own category, which means there’s a lack of national data.

The FBI’s figures do show burglary offenses and larceny-theft — a category that includes shoplifting, pickpocketing, and instances of package theft — have decreased overall in the last 20-plus years. But since both categories are broad and the agency doesn’t keep tabs on specific incidents of package thefts, it’s challenging to know whether the problem is getting better or worse.

Some police departments have started to segregate reports of package theft into their own category, which does show some worrying signs. In Denver, Colorado, for example, there’s been more than 1,260 reported incidents of package thefts this year, up from roughly 750 four years ago.

Some industry surveys show it’s a headache for many online shoppers. A product research company called The Chamber of Commerce said it surveyed 1,250 U.S. consumers in October and found that 26% of them have been victims of package theft. The problem was roughly split between urban and suburban areas, it said, and only 18% of consumers who’ve had packages stolen reported it to police.

Another report, which used a variety of sources and was compiled by the bank Capitol One, showed 14% of Americans were victims of porch piracy last year. It said those thefts amounted to $29.2 billion in losses.

What are companies doing about it?

Retailers and delivery companies are trying to combat the problem in a variety of ways.

UPS and FedEx, for example, allow customers to delay package deliveries if they’re not home or divert them to other pickup locations, either for free or with a fee.

This year, UPS also rolled out a feature called DeliveryDefense that uses AI to assess delivery risks and generate a “confidence score” for addresses where merchants need to ship packages. If the address has a low score, merchants can offer customers in-store collection or UPS pick-up points, which include CVS and Michaels stores as well as other local businesses. UPS spokesperson Jim Mayer said 350 retailers are using the service, but declined to provide examples.

Retailers like Amazon and Walmart also allow customers to track their orders and prepare for deliveries, or pick them up in stores.

Amazon, which has a limited physical footprint compared to Walmart, has lockers where packages can be picked up at third-party locations, as well as its subsidiary Whole Foods. The company also gives its Prime members the option to have packages placed inside secure locations like their garage by Amazon drivers.

In addition, retailers and brands are partnering with companies that offer shipping protections, and choosing to take on those expenses or offer it to consumers who want to pay for it.

One of these companies, Extend, noted that it works with 400 retailers, merchants and brands like Anne Klein and LensDirect, which sells contact lens and glasses. Rohan Shah, the founder of Extend, says high-end retailers who are focused on retaining customers are choosing to pay for warranties. But the majority are offering it to consumers as an add-on.

What do I do if I can’t find my packages?

Retailers say customers should check their order status and confirm whether a package was delivered. If the delivery was finalized, they say customers should ask other members of their household or their neighbors to see if someone else accepted the delivery.

If that doesn’t work, the best thing to do would be to reach out to the company from whom you purchased the item.

Shah, from Extend, said retailers are oftentimes trying to determine if customers are telling the truth, and looking at things like the shopper’s prior history of reporting stolen packages to determine how they should respond. Some, he said, are asking customers to file police reports, which most people don’t want to do whether they’re lying or not.

“There are these points – what I like to call friction or ‘gotchas’ – where (retailers) will try to minimize customers filing these claims because they know it’s going to cost them,” Shah said. “It’s a bit of a headache for all parties involved.”

Ben Stickle, a criminal justice professor at Middle Tennessee State University and a leading expert on the topic, said retailers are generally willing to replace stolen packages, which might be driven by a desire to maintain their brand reputation and customer loyalty.

Amazon encourages customers to contact customer service if they don’t have their package in hand within 30 days of expected delivery. Customers who ordered items from Amazon’s third-party sellers should contact those merchants, the company says on its website. Walmart also says customers should reach out to the company.

Target includes a clause on its site that says the risk of loss passes to the buyer after the company delivers an order to a carrier. Still, the company says on its site that customers who can’t find their deliveries can request a replacement or a refund online.

If retailers aren’t helping, Consumer Reports says customers should contact the shipping company. If the purchase was made with a credit card, it might also be worth checking the credit card company’s benefits to see if it includes insurance for lost or stolen items, they said. Homeowners or renters insurance might also help, it noted, but those policies usually have deductibles of $500 or more.

What does the law say?

Stealing packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service is a federal crime. But punishment for taking parcels delivered by private carriers, like UPS or Amazon, falls under state laws, which can differ.

A bill to expand federal penalties to packages delivered by private carriers was introduced in Congress last year by U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota. But the legislation hasn’t advanced.

Meanwhile, some states — including Texas, New Jersey and Michigan — have been changing their own laws in the past few years to impose more stringent penalties on porch piracy.

United States News

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip walk through a mak...

Associated Press

Rifts seem to appear between Israel’s political and military leadership over conduct of the Gaza war

In a rare public rift between the country’s leadership, an Israeli army spokesman appeared to question the goal of destroying Hamas.

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Probe finds carelessness caused Jewish student group’s omission from New Jersey high school yearbook

An investigation into how and why a Jewish student group was erased from a New Jersey high school yearbook found the omission was caused by negligence and carelessness, but was not done on purpose or out of malice, the school district announced Wednesday. East Brunswick Public Schools hired a law firm to investigate after the […]

7 hours ago

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday, June 18, 2024, that he wants to restrict students' ...

Associated Press

California governor wants to restrict smartphone usage in schools

Gavin Newsom announced he wants to restrict students' usage of phones during the school day, citing the mental health risks of social media.

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Shooting in Philadelphia wounds 7 people, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Seven people were wounded Wednesday evening in a shooting in Philadelphia, police said. The shooting happened just before 6:30 p.m. in North Philadelphia. The victims include a 19-year-old man who was shot in the leg, a 31-year-old woman shot in the hand, a 23-year-old man shot in the buttock, and two women […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Boaters find $1 million of cocaine floating off Florida Keys

MIAMI (AP) — Recreational boaters found $1 million worth of cocaine floating in the ocean off the Florida Keys. Samuel Briggs II, the acting chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, wrote about the find in a social media post on X. Briggs posted video Monday night showing the wrapped packages of cocaine being […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Police credit New Yorkers for suspect’s arrest in the rape of a 13-year-old girl

NEW YORK (AP) — Residents of a New York City neighborhood were praised for their role in the arrest of an Ecuadorian accused of raping a 13-year-old girl, a crime that the city’s police commissioner said “shocked our entire city.” Christian Geovanny Inga-Landi, 25, was arrested early Tuesday outside a deli in Corona, Queens. He […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Were your package deliveries stolen? What to know about porch piracy and what you can do about it