6 Ways to Outsmart Porch Pirates
Shopping online? Here's how to stop the thieves who are out to plunder the packages left at your front door.
The rise of porch pirates—and how you can protect your purchases
As the pandemic ramped up home deliveries for just about everything from groceries to craft beer, it gave rise to a new kind of criminal: the porch pirate. One survey by FedEx Canada, which has suspended signatures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, found that one-third of online shoppers had a parcel stolen in 2020, up from one-quarter in 2019. Most maddeningly, these porch pirates can strike anywhere, anytime, and will target any type of delivery, no matter the size. “They’ll take anything if it’s visible from the street,” says Constable Victor Kwong with Toronto Police. “There is no one profile for this type of theft.”
Luckily, most online retailers will offer you a replacement or refund if you report a theft, but that won’t make up for the aggravation of having been robbed. The best strategy? Thwart these scallywags before they steal again.
1. Love thy neighbour
“The number one way to prevent package theft is to have it shipped to a place that’s occupied,” says Kwong. If you can’t be home during the day, ask a trusted person who will be. Arrange to have parcels delivered to a friend or neighbour’s address. Once you get a delivery notification from the sender, make sure you give your helper a heads-up that the package has arrived so they can retrieve it promptly.
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2. Flex your options
Instead of home delivery, arrange to have your parcels held for pickup at your closest post office through Canada Post’s Flex Delivery program. Signing up is free and gets you a unique P.O. Box address to use for shipping an unlimited number of packages of any size. The caveat: you can only use this service for items shipped through Canada Post. Other couriers like FedEx and UPS may allow you to reschedule deliveries through their website or app, or hold them for you at retail locations.
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3. Locker up
Amazon, Canada Post, and a few other startup companies like Snaile offer 24-hour electronic smart lockers, usually in multi-residential buildings or retail stores, where you can have your purchases securely stored until you’re ready to pick them up. Once you receive a delivery notification, you’ll be given a special unlock code that you enter or scan at the locker’s screen display. Some restrictions apply: Amazon Locker only allows items less than 10 pounds and the approximate size of a bankers box.
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4. Now you see it
Smart doorbells with built-in security cameras like Ring can capture porch pirates in the act, often with clear enough video quality to identify the perpetrator. “The problem with cameras is that they only help you after the fact,” says Kwong. “Seeing the camera may deter the person, but it may not.” Still, with Ring’s intercom function, you could get a chance to give the thief a piece of your mind as they make off with your merchandise.
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5. On guard for thee
The Package Guard is a Frisbee-sized, Wi-Fi-enabled electronic pad designed to sit on your porch. Once a package is deposited on the pad, it sends you a delivery alert, and lets out a 100-decibel alarm if anyone tries to remove the item without disarming the device first via an app.
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6. Treasure chest
A number of manufacturers have come out with secure parcel boxes for your front porch. Couriers deposit items inside and close the self-locking lid, which can only be opened with a key. There’s no guarantee, however, that delivery drivers will know to use it unless you clearly specify it in the shipping instructions.
A cheaper solution: a large urn or potted plant to hide packages in or behind, which can provide enough camouflage to deter opportunists. “The risk of theft increases the more you have things just sitting out in the open,” says Kwong.
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