This year's report is dedicated to keeping your packages and porches secure from unwanted thieves as home deliveries rise amid COVID-19. Inside you'll discover statistics, as well as expert advice on prevention, all from the leader in online insurance quotes.
Santa has the luxury of tucking your presents safely under your tree inside your home, but for the rest of us, we need to rely on shippers to deliver an increasing share of our holiday cheer. And with shipping comes the threat of porch piracy — theft of packages left at your door.
Sadly, porch piracy is an experience felt by nearly 1 in 5 Americans who told insuranceQuotes.com they had a package stolen from their porch or doorstep as part of the annual Porch Pirates in the Age of COVID-19 Report conducted in November by SSRS Omnibus of more than 1,000 people.
While delivery services and online retailers are racing to find ways around porch piracy, criminals are doing their best to stay a step ahead. Even as counter measures have been rolled out, the same percentage of people (18%) reported a theft in this year’s survey as did in 2019.
While it might be tempting to believe that living in a tightly packed environment dooms you to inevitable package theft, insuranceQuotes found that people living in metropolitan areas experienced only slightly more package thefts than people living outside the city – 18% for people living in metropolitan areas, as compared to 16% living outside the metro area.
This holiday season promises to offer plenty of opportunities for porch pirates to strike. That is because shippers are expecting a larger-than 30% year-over-year growth in digital commerce this holiday season. That growth is expected to stress the shipping industry and package carriers to the max. In fact, 47% of respondents to insuranceQuotes’ survey said that all or most of their holiday shopping will be done via online delivery this year.
Much of this holiday growth has been driven by a larger trend toward e-commerce that was sparked by changing habits brought on the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry analysts suspect those changes are here to stay after consumers appear to have permanently shifted their buying patterns online, causing a surge of package deliveries — and the resulting opportunities for porch piracy.
One particularly telling portion of the Porch Pirate Report showed that 7% of Americans say they have had a delivered package stolen just since the pandemic began in March, representing 37% of the stolen packages in the study.
As part of the survey, InsuranceQuotes.com learned that 36% of respondents said they have shifted away from in-person purchasing in favor of online purchasing since the onset of the pandemic. Those numbers were reinforced in a Salesforce.com survey of 3,500 consumers in May that found that 44% of respondents said they are conducting more of their shopping online.
How to Fight Back Against Porch Pirates
Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a strategically placed bush by the front door, or a planter that a driver can hide a package behind, but not everyone is so lucky, and not every hidey-hole is foolproof. In an effort to stay ahead of the pirates, delivery companies are rolling out new products, and have some best practices, all meant to get your delivery into your hands.
Dawn Wotapka, a UPS spokeswoman suggests using the UPS My Choice program along with the UPS app to help track and reroute package deliveries. FedEx has a similar suite of tools. Using those tools can help ensure that someone is home when the driver rings the doorbell, leaving the package exposed to potential pirates for less time.
Another option Wotapka suggests is the UPS Access Point program, which lets people pick up their packages at more than 40,000 locations, including The UPS Store, Michaels, CVS, and Advance Auto. Some cities are even volunteering their local police departments as a place to ship your goods — a move sure to encourage criminals to steer clear.
The United States Postal Service delegates package theft to the Postal Inspectors Office – the law enforcement branch of the Postal Service. The Postal Inspectors recommend doing everything possible to limit the time a letter or package is in a mailbox or on a porch, and thus exposed to potential theft. For outgoing mail, that can mean making sure to use blue postal boxes or dropping packages inside a post office location, rather than leaving them in a mailbox with a flag raised for anyone to see.
And regardless of how you send it, the Postal Inspectors discourage sending cash — it is just too risky. For the most important deliveries, opting for a signature confirmation option may be worth the extra cost and hassle. Another best practice they recommend if you cannot be home to accept the delivery is to consider shipping to your workplace or a family member’s home who you know will be home.
According to Ben Gothard, vice president of partnerships for Dropified, a company that helps e-commerce businesses manage their shipping, consumers should also consider installing security cameras by front doors, and everyone — the merchant and the customer — should be tracking the package at every step of the process.
Many carriers allow the consumers to give special delivery instructions identifying specific places to leave their packages, which might help keep that package from just laying open in the middle of the threshold. And, if you know you are going out of town for an extended period, putting a vacation hold on makes a lot of sense — a service offered by the Postal Service, as well as the major shipping companies.
What to Do After Porch Pirates Strike
For the 18% of people who have already lost a package to the hands of a porch pirate, prevention comes too late. So, then, what happens if your package does go missing?
Most experts say to start by looking all over for hiding places — at your back or side door, behind a flowerpot, etc. In a best-case scenario, you aren’t dealing with a porch pirate, and instead have just gotten a clever driver who is really good at hiding your packages. Often, the carrier has a photo of exactly where they left it that you can access online or through their app to help make that hide-and-seek game a little easier.
For their part, Amazon also suggests asking family members, who may have grabbed it and put it somewhere safe inside, and to also ask neighbors, who might have been helpful and grabbed it for you. But, after 48 hours, the sad truth is the package is probably a goner.
At that point, Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for the United States Postal Service, said it may be time to bring in the authorities. With a packaged shipped by the Postal Service, you should file a report with the Postal Inspection Service. The city police or sheriff’s office would step in with the other carriers.
After filing a police report, the next step would be to contact the retailer and let them know the package went missing. Gothard says he advises his business clients to think the big picture and consider issuing a refund or shipping out a replacement, even if they strictly don’t have to.
“Every incident is a chance to earn customer loyalty by handling it right,” Gothard said. “Don’t think of the short-term cash expenditure. Think of how many nice things your customers will say about you when you make it right, even if it wasn’t your fault. Take responsibility for everything at the highest level.”
From a consumer perspective, the sad reality is that if a package was successfully delivered to the proper house and then stolen, the liability ultimately lies with the homeowner and not the retailer or the carrier.
If it was a high-dollar item, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance could be an option — but your policy’s deductible would likely apply. Finally, as a last resort, check your credit card, which may have protections for loss or theft of purchases as a built-in cardholder benefit.
Having a Pirate-Proof Delivery Plan
As online shopping and delivery increases, so does the risk of porch pirates—which is not only being compounded by a once-in-a-100-years pandemic spurring online ordering, but also now, holiday shopping. This holiday season, online shoppers need to have a safe and secure delivery plan.
Fortunately for consumers, there are effective ways to protect themselves and their packages from porch pirates—from order tracking to installing a security system to arranging for a pickup location. In the short term, the porch pirates problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. But it will get better.
Package Deliveries May Never Be the Same
When customers pivoted to online shopping following the pandemic, it was likely for good. According to survey data, 14% of respondents said that they are now doing all or most of their grocery shopping via online delivery, and 47% of respondents said that, this year, all or most of their holiday shopping will be done via online delivery.
As sad as it is to say, thinking through how to keep deliveries safe once they hit your front porch now needs to be as normal as remembering online passwords and ATM PIN numbers. Because as online shopping continues its growth, porch pirates will continue to see those juicy packages as just too good to pass up.
Summary of Key Findings:
18% of Americans say they have had a delivered package stolen from their porch or doorstep (the same percentage as last year’s study).
7% of Americans say they have had a delivered package stolen just since the pandemic began in March, representing 37% of the stollen packages reported.
47% of Americans say that this year, all or most of their holiday shopping will be done via online delivery.
14% say that all or most of their grocery shopping is done via online delivery.
36% of American say that since March, they have shifted away from in-person purchasing in favor of online purchasing.
18% of people living in metropolitan areas, and 16% living outside cities experienced some form of package theft.
This study was conducted for insuranceQuotes via telephone by SSRS on its Omnibus survey platform. Interviews were conducted from October 27 – November 1, 2020 among a sample of 1,007 respondents in English (972) and Spanish (35). Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (302) and cell phone (705, including 429 without a landline phone). The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.68% at the 95% confidence level. All SSRS Omnibus data are weighted to represent the target population.
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