You’ve probably seen the stories on the news. A resident will report that a package they ordered was stolen from their front porch. Oftentimes, the criminals who take these packages are referred to as porch pirates.

While on the surface it may seem like a comical name, porch pirate prevention has become a serious issue for eCommerce businesses as well as their customers.

Stolen packages cost companies billions of dollars annually. This theft also irritates customers and makes them less willing to make those online purchases if they feel their packages may be stolen right off of their porch.

However, there are things that both businesses and customers can do to help thwart these porch pirates and prevent package theft.

In this article, we will share some tips on how to protect your packages and how to deter package thieves.

Why Are Porch Pirate Incidents Rising?

Although packages being stolen is not completely new, it does seem like there’s been an explosion of porch pirates in almost every neighborhood across the country. Some people may think this is due to more media coverage of the topic or the increased use of doorbell cameras and other home security systems to actually catch the crime in action.

Many statistics do show that the number of stolen packages is increasing. So much so, that 49 million Americans have been affected. What is not known is whether this increase is simply due to the growing popularity of online shopping or if package theft is increasing by itself.

Either way, as online shopping continues to grow there will likely also be an increase in porch pirates as packages keep getting stolen. So it would be wise to start protecting yourself against these thieves now so that you don’t have to deal with lost packages and frustration down the road.

Why Porch Pirates Hurt Your Bottom Line

As an eCommerce business, porch pirates can be a threat to your bottom line as well as your overall customer satisfaction. When a package is stolen, it usually sets into motion a long and complicated claims process between the customer, the business, and the shipper.

If the customer initiated a chargeback, that makes the issue even more complicated and the issuing bank for that customer’s credit card is now involved. Overall, the whole process just involves more work for the business that doesn’t result in any extra income. This means that it’s smart business to try to avoid this whole issue through prevention.

But besides just the package being stolen and the extra paperwork that’s necessary to settle the claims, there’s also the issue of customer satisfaction.

If a customer doesn’t have a doorbell camera or other security device that recorded the package theft they may not know if the package was actually stolen or if the eCommerce store simply never delivered it.

This adds up to a situation where you experience harm to your business’s reputation. Even though you fulfilled the order as promised and did nothing wrong. 

Finally, customers that have to deal with porch pirates or package theft are often less willing to make impulse purchases online. The risk of possibly losing the package and having to go through the claims process, even if easy, will make them less likely to make that purchase. 

In the next section, we’ll go over strategies to prevent package theft. You can implement them yourself, in your business, or inform customers on how to keep their orders safe. 

How To Protect Packages From Being Stolen

Below are a few tips that consumers can use to understand how to keep their packages from being stolen. 

1. Track Packages

The most important tip for customers is to make sure they track their packages so they’re aware of the day that they’ll arrive. When ordering from an eCommerce store, make sure to sign up for either email alerts or SMS alerts. These will keep you up to date on what day your package will arrive and also they may tell you the time when they’ll arrive.

A key to not letting porch pirates walk off with your package is to try to have it on your porch or in view of the street for the shortest time possible. If you know a package will be arriving sometime in the afternoon, try to have a person there who can pick up the package and either bring it inside or hold on to it until you can pick it up.

2. Sign Up For Enhanced Delivery

All the major delivery companies as well as the USPS now have enhanced delivery options that customers can sign up for. Almost all of these services have a free tier that you can sign up for at no charge. They also have paid tiers that offer more features to track your package. This can be especially helpful during the holiday season when package theft tends to rise.

The advantage of these enhanced delivery services is that you can set preferences with each shipping company. For example, you can request certain packages be held at a local facility even when the package is already en route. You can do this if something comes up and you know you will not be home until very late that day. This prevents the package from being left out for an extended period of time.

Use A Video Doorbell Camera

Using a doorbell camera doesn’t guarantee that your package won’t be stolen. But it can be a deterrent if used properly.

Just having the camera there and visible may be enough to make most porch pirates simply move on to another house that doesn’t have a camera. Another advantage is that many doorbell cameras can be connected to a phone app via Wi-Fi which will alert you if it notices anyone near your front door.  

If this happens, you can sometimes speak through the app and the person who is in front of the camera will be able to hear you via a speaker. There’s a chance you may be able to scare the porch pirate off as they’re mid-theft.

Even if they do still manage to make off with the package, you at least have some evidence to use to show that the package was stolen. This may help when you’re filing a claim with the shipper or with the eCommerce store.

4. Package Lockers

Large eCommerce companies like Amazon will have package lockers all across the country that customers can use to have their packages shipped. You then simply pick up the package at the Amazon locker using a supplied PIN code.

Other businesses that don’t have package lockers may have in-store pick-up that you can use when ordering online. If you know you won’t be able to be home to accept the package, this is another option that you can use.

If you’re wondering how to secure delivered packages at home, there are package lockers that you can buy for your home that can be placed near your front door. Your delivery person should be familiar with these package lockers and they will understand how they work.

This may not work for all homes as you’ll need enough space and a place to attach the locker so that the whole thing isn’t just taken. But for those with enough space, having the delivery driver place your package in a locked box is a secure option.

If you live in an apartment, many apartment complexes will have a package locker service that you can sign up for and have your packages delivered to the locker instead of your apartment.

5. Delivery To Your Work Or Office

Another option is to have delivery boxes sent to your work or office if you know for sure you won’t be able to be home to accept them. Of course, this won’t work for all jobs and circumstances. But if your job is one where you can accept packages while you are there this makes for a pretty good solution. Rather than having your packages sitting on your porch until you finally arrive home in the evening.

6. Require A Signature For Delivery

Another secure package delivery option that you can use is to require a signature for delivery. This can be a very secure method to ensure that no one else has access to the package. However, this also creates a certain inconvenience for the customer if they’re not home when the packages are delivered.

It’s best to use this method for high-ticket purchases or large items that you don’t want to attract attention on your porch. Requiring a signature can also be an option if you live in an area where there’s been a lot of activity from porch pirates and you know your packages are at a higher risk.

For merchants, it’s also a good idea to require a signature for purchases that are over a certain amount or for packages that are over a certain size. If the customer wants to waive this feature they may have to agree to certain terms as far as refunds if the package is lost or stolen.

Whom To Contact If You Suspect A Package Was Stolen

If you were expecting a delivery and the package has not arrived, there are a few steps you should take to make the claims process as easy and smooth as possible. Below, we’ll outline those steps and how they can vary with different businesses.

Step 1

The first step is to ensure the package has been delivered. You will want to verify with this shipper and use the tracking information you have to ensure that the package was delivered and the time and location of the delivery.

It’s important to understand that a lot of shipping companies now use third parties to help with their deliveries. This can sometimes mean that package information is not updated and although a package shows as delivered it may not show up until the next day. If possible, you may want to wait at least 24 hours in some cases to see if the package ends up being delivered.

Of course, if you have a doorbell camera and you see evidence that the package was taken, there is no need to wait 24 hours.

Step 2

Once you have confirmed that the delivery packages are not going to arrive you should contact the seller first and ask what their process is when a package fails to be delivered.

Some eCommerce stores may just work with you and handle the claim all by themselves and not ask for you to contact the shipper at all. This will depend on the individual eCommerce store and the price of the item that was ordered.

If the eCommerce store asks you to just handle the claim through them and they offer a refund or offer to send a replacement, then your issue should be resolved. If not, then you may have to contact the shipper to file a claim, which we’ll discuss next.

Step 3

When checking the tracking number on the shipper’s site there should be an area to report that the package is missing. If you haven’t already created an account on the shipper’s site, you’ll likely be asked to do so when filing a claim.

You would then provide the information that the shipper asks for and then wait for them to further contact you.

In most cases, you will not receive a refund from this shipper. Instead, the shipping company will refund the original store, and then that store will issue you a refund after the claim is completed.

As mentioned earlier, this can vary based on the specific store and how they handle claims of lost packages.

Step 4

If at this point if you suspect that the package was stolen or you have evidence from a security camera that shows it was stolen, you can file a police report.

They may ask you to file a report either in person or online. Depending on the value of the item it may be a good idea to have this report on hand when filing the claim with either the eCommerce store or the original shipper.

Tips For Business

Shipping Updates

As an eCommerce business, it’s important that you communicate with your customers through the entire purchasing and shipping process. Most shipping companies and shopping carts for eCommerce platforms have integrations to keep your customer informed as a package is in transit.

Make sure to use these integrations so your customers are always up-to-date on when a package is set to arrive. By knowing when a package is arriving, it will generally sit for a shorter period of time and there’s less chance of it being stolen.

Information On Your Website

Include information in your FAQ or support page offering tips for customers to prevent porch pirates. You don’t want to scare them off from ordering but offer simple tips like the ones we already discussed.

Many customers who haven’t experienced package theft may not even be aware of the simple precautions they can take. So offering a little help in this area may help prevent any packages from being stolen in the first place.

Have Policies In Place To Deal With Package Theft

On your support page, make sure to have a dedicated section on what customers should do if a package is missing.

For example, something titled “My package never arrived but it says it was delivered”. That way customers know exactly what to click on to find more information.

You want to make sure that customers know you will help them solve the problem and that there is no need to initiate a chargeback. A chargeback makes the entire process more complicated and shuts off several solutions.

Customers must know you have a procedure in place to quickly resolve the issue in a way that benefits the customer. This cuts down on costly and time-consuming chargebacks and also leads to higher customer satisfaction.

An overwhelming number of customers will be patient as long as they feel the business is working with them to find a solution.

Use Delivery Confirmation

This is a good idea for both the merchant and the customer. 

With different shippers, there will usually be a choice of different levels of delivery confirmation. The most basic version is simply a confirmation that the package arrived at its intended destination. This is generally just done via a scan of the package done by the driver. This can be helpful, but not so much if there is a dispute.

The next level will be a photo confirmation where the driver photographs the package at the destination along with a scan showing the package has reached its final destination. These are more helpful in the case of a dispute as all parties can have proof the package was delivered.

If possible, try to integrate this photographic delivery confirmation into your customer portal so that customers can see the information for themselves. This may not be possible for all merchants, but photo proof can usually still be seen on the shipper’s website.

So if you can’t integrate this with your own shopping platform, inform customers they can view this information via the shipper’s website. This way they’ll know the package was stolen and it was not the merchant’s fault

More Help For Merchants

Unfortunately, stolen packages are something every merchant will end up dealing with at some point. But by following a few tips, merchants can make this a much easier issue to resolve.

If you need help integrating some of these systems to better fight porch pirates, contact ECS Payments. We offer different payment gateway solutions and can find the right gateway that easily integrates security features into your existing shopping platform.