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2022 Porch Pirates: Stolen Holiday Package Study

It is a common lament to notice that holiday shopping is coming earlier each year. Unfortunately, another group is noticing that holiday packages are arriving earlier as well — porch pirates.

Porch piracy is a frustrating reality shoppers must confront during the holiday season, and according to a recent survey conducted by SSRS research on behalf of InsuranceQuotes.com, 26% of Americans say they have had a delivered package stolen from their porch or doorstep. That is down slightly from last year’s survey, but still much higher than in years past.

porch pirates stolen holiday packages info

Porch pirates are a scourge of shoppers, shippers, and merchants alike, and their effect is felt by a wide cross section of society. In this year’s survey, young people reported being victims of package theft more often than their older counterparts, with 41% of 18- to 29-year-olds reporting having a package stolen, compared with just 12% of people 65 and older.

Porch piracy is also an issue felt across the country but seems to be slightly more concentrated in the northeast, with 32% of respondents living in the northeast reporting having a package stolen, compared to just 23% in the west.

And with the survey showing an increasing number of people (64%) reporting that they will be doing all or most of their holiday shopping via online delivery (compared to 40% from last year), porch piracy is going to continue to be a widespread issue.

Shopping exclusively online seems to be a trend across most demographics, but the 30- to 49-year-old crowd seems most enthusiastic about shopping online only, with 71% saying that is their method of choice, compared with just 52% of people 65 and older.

In general, higher income people seem more likely to say they are looking to shop exclusively online, with 76% of people earning more than $100,000 saying yes to this year’s survey, compared with 55% of people earning less than $50,000 who plan to shop exclusively online this year for the holidays.

Analyzing the risk

According to Andrea Avery, spokeswoman for the United States Postal Inspection Service, giving an accurate estimate of the number of packages stolen each year is increasingly difficult because the number of complaints does not accurately reflect the amount of theft occurring — much of it just goes unreported to law enforcement.

Even still, according to the annual report for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the agency charged with investigating items stolen from the USPS, the agency secured 1,263 convictions in 2021 for mail theft. And that only accounts for the things taken from the mail. Packages delivered by other carriers, such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, or Amazon fall under the jurisdiction of each city’s police or sheriff office, meaning there is no central data repository to show how widespread the problem is.

On top of that, the convictions the Postal Inspection Service secured doesn’t necessarily represent the number of thefts. “Multiple mail theft complaints can and often are associated with one investigation, since mail thieves often target more than one delivery point or mail receptacle,” Avery said.  

Variables this year

According to this year’s Porch Pirate Survey, shoppers plan to start filling their stockings early, with 43% of respondents saying that this year, they will start their holiday shopping earlier than ever.

Women seem to be more likely to be jumpstarting their shopping, with 47% of female respondents saying yes, compared with only 38% of men saying they are starting early this year.

Still, an early shopping season means that the timeframe for packages sitting on porches is going to be spread out this year – potentially giving pirates more days to maraud shoppers’ porches.

Last holiday season, the dominant holiday shopping narrative was the supply chain woes and the inability to get ahold of the hottest gifts. And while that doesn’t seem to be as big an issue this year, that doesn’t mean having to order a replacement for a stolen good is going to be much easier, considering today’s inflation rates.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices are up across the board about 8.2% compared with a year ago. Higher prices mean that swiped packages come with that much more sting.

Those higher prices seem to be reflected in the Porch Pirates survey, with 21% of respondents saying that this year, they are spending more than ever on holiday shopping.

People with lower incomes were more likely to respond yes – with 25% of people earning less than $50,000 saying this is likely to be their most expensive holiday shopping season, while just 16% of people earning more than $100,000 said the same thing.

With those more expensive holiday wish lists, that is more incentive for online shoppers to take precautions against porch pirates.

Sustainability was another trend that showed up in the survey, with 51% of respondents saying that this year, for holiday shopping, they are more likely to buy from a sustainable brand.

Younger respondents tended to be more likely to say sustainability is going to be a driving factor, with 60% of people between 18 and 29 saying it was an influence, with just 45% of people 65 and older saying the same thing. There was also a difference by gender, with women a little more likely than men to say sustainability was a driver, with 55% of women saying yes, compared with just 47% of men.

Considering shoppers are already looking to reduce waste, preventing a second shipment because of a stolen package seems like a great place to start.

Influencers also seem to be driving holiday shoppers this year, with 23% of respondents saying that this year, for their holiday shopping, they plan on buying at least one item marketed by an influencer.

Women were 50% more likely than men to say they were swayed by an influencer, with 27% saying yes, compared with just 18% of men, and younger shoppers were more than twice as likely to say influencers drove their shopping, with 35% of 18- to 29-year-olds saying yes, compared with just 14% of people older than 65.

What that could mean for porch pirates is that brands that are high-end or designed to grab the public’s attention may also be packaged in a flashy way that could catch a porch pirate’s eye.

Best practices

One thing most security experts agree with is that the less time a package sits unattended on a porch, the less likely it is to be pirated.

One way to limit that porch time is to sign up with the shipping companies’ tracking apps. Many of them will notify shoppers as the shipment is just a few doors down. And once the doorbell rings and the package is left on the porch, experts say to go grab it and not let the boxes pile up or the mail to overflow from the mailbox.

If someone is not going to be home, say on vacation, it is wise to notify all the shipping companies and the Postal Service about that and issue a hold until after the trip is over.

While they can’t prevent a porch piracy, doorbell cameras can at least help to investigate who swiped the package.

There are a number of companies that offer porch lock boxes — some temporary ones that attach to the front door and then can be broken down after the delivery, and some that are sturdier and physically attached to the house or the wall. Some porch lock boxes are even insulated so groceries that are delivered won’t melt before they make it to the freezer.

Having a lockable box for packages obviously helps, but experts also suggest simply giving the delivery person instructions on the best place to tuck the package away — maybe behind a gate or at a side door.

Even just tucked behind a landscape planter, a bush, or other obstacle is better than just sitting out in the open. And if the home has a screened in porch or sunroom, asking the driver to slip the package into there can go a long way to preventing theft.

Increasingly, shippers are partnering with retailers to serve as drop-off points for packages that shoppers can sign for later, and Amazon has centrally located lock boxes people can use so they can pick it up from a secure location rather than letting it sit unattended. Renting a post office box could serve a similar function.

After the fact

While nobody wants their package stolen, the next step people often take is to see who is on the hook for that pilfered item.

Unfortunately for the shopper, once the carrier supplies proof of successful delivery, their liability ends (as typically does the carrier-provided insurance policy on that delivery.) What that means is that once the delivery driver leaves the package on a porch and snaps their picture, the liability now moves to the shopper.

That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Many e-commerce experts encourage merchants to go ahead and ship a replacement or issue a refund when they find out about the stolen package, even if they aren’t legally required to. They typically say that the PR and goodwill is worth the lost revenue.

For their protection, there are some insurance policies merchants can lean on. For some high-dollar items, a business owner’s policy’s liability portion may cover items in transit, but that coverage likely comes with a high deductible 

There are some other add-on insurance policies merchants can buy through companies such as UPS Capital that are meant to protect against that no-man’s-land between the package being dropped off and it being picked up by the owner.

But not every merchant ships a replacement no-questions-asked. In that case, the cost falls on the buyer. Again, for high-dollar items, the buyer’s homeowner’s insurance offers some coverage, but it probably comes with a high deductible as well.

If the purchase was made with a premium credit card, that is worth looking into for some protection. Many credit cards offer purchase protection that might apply, which protects the purchase from theft for a number of days.

And in a glass-is-half-full scenario, buyers also shouldn’t just jump to the conclusion that the package was stolen.

Many shippers encourage buyers to first give their property a thorough search. A delivery drive may have just tucked the package behind something to prevent that theft in the first place. Checking the delivery app’s photo may reveal the package’s hiding place, or even show if it was accidentally delivered to a neighbor’s house.

And don’t be hesitant to ask neighbors or family members — the person who took the package may have been doing it to be helpful and prevent a theft in the first place.

Conclusion

Porch piracy continues to be a problem plaguing online shoppers, and as the holiday shopping season gets longer, and the dollar prices for the purchases goes up, it gives ever-increasing incentives to find ways to avoid package theft to begin with.

While it will never be possible to completely eliminate package theft, some best practices and risk management may mean that thieves get away with fewer packages in the future.

Summary of key findings:

• 26% of Americans say they have had a delivered package stolen from their porch or doorstep 

• 64% say that, this year, all or most of their holiday shopping will be done via online delivery (compared to 40% from last year)

• 43% say that this year, they will start their holiday shopping earlier than ever

• 21% say that this year, they are spending more than ever on holiday shopping 

• 51% say that this year, for holiday shopping, they are more likely to buy from a sustainable brand

• 23% responded yes to “This year, for my holiday shopping, I am buying at least one item I saw marketed by an influencer”

Methodology:
This study was conducted by SSRS on its Opinion Panel Omnibus platform. The SSRS Opinion Panel Omnibus is a national, twice-per-month, probability-based survey. Data collection was conducted from October 21 – October 24, 2022 among a sample of 1006 respondents. The survey was conducted via web (n=976) and telephone (n=30) and administered in English. The margin of error for total respondents is +/- 3.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All SSRS Opinion Panel Omnibus data are weighted to represent the target population of U.S. adults ages 18 or older.