If you’re expecting any packages this holiday season, there’s a chance at least one of them may end up in the hands of thieves. Porch piracy — that is, the poaching of packages left at people’s doorsteps — has become a major problem in the U.S., resulting in an annual $8 billion loss, according to Security.org, a website that reviews safety products.
Little wonder there’s even a National Package Protection Day on the calendar — Nov. 29. And indeed, there’s plenty you can do to safeguard against porch piracy, from buying high-tech security equipment to having your packages delivered to a safe place outside your home, such as a FedEx or UPS location.
Still, if you do end up being a victim of porch piracy, don’t despair: There are remedies that can help you avoid being on the hook for the loss, according to merchants, credit-card companies and others. So, keep the following steps in mind:
File a police report
While it may not be required as proof of loss in all instances, it’s a good way to document the crime and provide such proof if needed. SafeWise.com, another site that reviews safety products, cautions that the police may not be able to do much without witnesses to the crime, but “they’ll take note of the incident.” Still, the report could be critical, especially if you file a claim with your credit-card issuer or homeowner-insurance company (more on that later).
Start with the merchant
This should be your next step. Many major retailers have policies in place to deal with package theft — and to help shoppers avoid it.
says customers can keep tabs on an order with the company’s map-tracking feature and Prime members can select a designated day for weekly delivery of packages. Customers can also opt to have packages sent to an Amazon Locker location. But if a package is stolen, an Amazon spokesperson told MarketWatch that “we work with customers directly to make it right,” though the spokesperson didn’t provide more specifics about refunds.
says that “in most cases, when applicable, we will offer free refunds and/or replacements if customers are faced with this unfortunate circumstance” of package theft. The company also notes that it generally “does not require police reports or any proof that would burden our customer.” Walmart advises you to wait two business days before reporting an issue, noting that shippers may sometimes mark packages as delivered before they actually arrive (Target
offers a similar advisory).
But what about smaller shops or independent sellers, such as Etsy
creators? Etsy’s “package protection program” claims customers will receive a full refund for qualifying orders if a package doesn’t arrive. You’ll have to reach out to the individual seller who shipped the item and start a help request, Etsy explains. If the issue isn’t resolved within 48 hours, then you can ask Etsy to step in and help you get your refund.
You can also reach out to your credit-card company
Many credit-card companies have theft or purchase-protection policies in place — and that can be another option if you can’t get satisfaction from the merchant.
explains its policy thusly: “For 90 days following a purchase, Visa provides purchase protection insurance in case a transaction goes wrong — that includes if something is missing or stolen, if it doesn’t work as promised or if it is defective.” Visa adds that a police report may be required in the case of more expensive items.
says some of its cards come with a purchase-assurance benefit that “provides coverage for most items you purchase with your eligible Mastercard if the item is damaged or stolen within 90 days of the date of purchase.” But Mastercard also emphasizes that you should first see if you can resolve the situation with the merchant.
And American Express
has a similar purchase-protection policy that covers items that are accidentally damaged, lost or stolen for up to 90 days from the purchase date with an eligible card. You can see the individual policies for each American Express card here. American Express says you should file a police report to back up any claim.
What about the shipper?
The shipper, be it FedEx
or the U.S. Postal Service, is generally not the key party to reach out to when a package you’re expecting is stolen, explains Nick DiNatale, founder and chief executive of ShipPlug, a shipping-solution company. That’s because the agreement is between the merchant and the shipper, so it’s up to the merchant to work out the details of what went wrong and seek remedy on their end.
A spokesperson for UPS told MarketWatch that it encourages customers who are victims of porch piracy to do the following: “We suggest calling their local authorities, filing a police report and contacting the retailer for reimbursement or reshipment.” But the spokesperson added that “customers can also contact UPS and we will work with the retailer.”
Still, the shippers do suggest ways that customers can avoid issues. FedEx points to the fact that customers can indeed have packages sent to a FedEx-staffed location, noting that 93% of the population lives within five miles of such a place.
The U.S. Postal Service points out that customers can customize their delivery through its website, including authorizing the carrier to leave a package in a specified location. But the service also provides this basic advice: “Just as wallets and purses shouldn’t be left on the front seat of an unlocked car overnight, mail and packages shouldn’t be left uncollected in mailboxes or on front porches for any length of time.”
Finally, there’s homeowner or renter insurance
If all else fails, you can reach out to your homeowner or renter insurance provider and file a claim to cover any stolen items. Most policies allow for this, explains Samantha Bauer, a Pennsylvania-based agency owner with Goosehead Insurance, a company that works with several insurance providers. But Bauer warns that policies typically have deductibles of $500 or $1,000, so the stolen item would have to be of enough value to merit a claim. Even then, if you file a claim, you risk having your insurance rates go up, Bauer adds.
Nicole Lyn Pesce contributed to this article.