With the holiday season fast approaching, you may be concerned about packages piling up in your mailbox or on your front porch. After all, millions of packages are stolen every year, particularly around the winter holidays. A 2017 study from InsuranceQuotes.com found that nearly 26 million Americans had packages taken from their front porch or doorstep.
So, if you're worried about mail theft, consider the following strategies to prevent your packages from getting swiped and steps to take if your package is scooped from your porch or doorstep.
Here are the best ways to protect your packages from being stolen:
-- Track your package.
-- Install a doorbell camera or a large porch security camera.
-- Sign up for Key by Amazon.
-- Consider getting a BoxLock.
-- Solicit help from your neighbor.
-- Request to have packages delivered elsewhere.
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Track Your Package
It's a simple step, but one you don't want to forget. It's important to know what day your package is likely to show up. Most retailers send packages through a service that allows you to track your package's shipping status. Also keep in mind your shipment may be delayed, particularly during busy times of year such as the winter holidays. Once you confirm your package was shipped and delivered, if you never received it, you'll want to take action and contact the retailer or shipping company.
Install a Doorbell Camera or a Large Porch Security Camera
Security cameras won't prevent thieves from taking packages, but they will deter them, says James Banta, a spokesman for SecurityNerd.com, an educational website about home security products. Before joining SecurityNerd.com, Banta, incidentally, was a police officer for a quarter century in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Some of the leading outdoor home security camera system brands are Nest, Ring and Arlo, he says. While they can't stop a thief from stealing them, they "will record and store video so that police can have a better chance to track down the thief," he explains.
The more space the security camera can capture, the better. "Doorbell cameras are great, but they aren't super noticeable to everyone," Banta says. "A larger security camera on your porch can be a better deterrent and also provide video footage later if your package is stolen."
Nest, Ring and Arlo also offer larger porch security cameras. If you want to invest in a porch security camera, other brands to consider include Logitech, SimpliSafe, Vivint and Amcrest. These types of cameras can range from a couple hundred dollars to more. You can opt for a security camera or you can pay a subscription, which could be $10 a month or as high as $40 a month, to have the added benefit of being linked with a professional security system, where professionals monitor your home and call the police if something goes wrong.
For instance, Logitech offers unlimited cameras for free with features such as unlimited streaming and downloads. For 14 days of cloud storage, you'll pay $3.99 a month for a single camera. For two weeks of cloud storage for up to five cameras, you'll pay $6.99 a month or $69 a year. Conversely, with SimpliSafe, you can choose a standard plan for $182.50 per year. With SimpliSafe, you can benefit from an interactive monitoring service, which offers features such as alerts on your phone.
Sign Up for Key by Amazon
"This allows packages to be placed in a garage, a trunk, a car, even in your front door," Banta says. "Basically, the delivery person can scan the code on your box, you will then be sent an alert on your phone, and you can look at them on the video and unlock your door remotely so that they can drop the package."
While you may be skeptical of inviting a stranger into your home, there's a major upside: Because you can watch delivery people come into your home on your phone, they aren't likely to do anything, Banta says. They know they're being watched. That said, you can opt to have packages put in your garage or car, if the home isn't a great option for you.
Prices for Amazon Key vary, depending on which security products you buy. For instance, you can buy a Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt + Amazon Cloud Cam and a Key Smart Lock Kit for around $310.
Consider Getting a BoxLock
This smart padlock, which retails for $129, can be attached to a package container that can be placed on your front or back porch. BoxLock came on the market in 2018, and according to its website, GetBoxLock.com, "hundreds of thousands of delivery drivers across the U.S. have been trained to use the bar code scanner in BoxLock."
"Your delivery person scans the bar code on your package with the scanner on your BoxLock. Only a package that is for you and out for delivery that day will unlock the box. (The) delivery person leaves it in the box for you," Banta says.
If you're concerned that somebody could steal the box with your package, it's possible, though the BoxLock website points out that most crimes are crimes of opportunity -- a thief is more likely to steal something when he or she knows there's a package on the doorstep. But if you're really worried, you could padlock your box to your house, the BoxLock website suggests.
Solicit Help From Your Neighbor
"If you have a neighbor who is home during the day and is willing to do it, it's ideal to ask him or her to grab the package for you until you get home -- especially if it contains something expensive," Banta says. Alternatively, if it's allowed at your workplace, you may ask to have packages delivered there.
Request to Have Packages Delivered Elsewhere
Rather than getting FedEx packages delivered to your door, you can request to have items shipped for free to a nearby Walgreens. Alternatively, you can have your Amazon items shipped to an Amazon Hub Locker near you. Simply choose an Amazon Locker location instead of your own shipping address. These are designated spots -- sometimes at convenience stores, supermarkets, apartment buildings and Whole Foods Markets (which are owned by Amazon) where you can have Amazon packages delivered for no additional cost. These are self-service kiosks; you'll be emailed a unique six-digit code that you'll use to remove the package from a designated slot. If an Amazon Hub is located near your home or work, that's an ideal place to have them delivered. You can find them on the Amazon.com webpage.
What You Should Do if Your Package Is Stolen
"Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about a stolen package, especially because it's hard to prove if a package was stolen or simply not delivered to your home," says Gabe Turner, director of content with Security Baron, a consumer home website focusing on security, such as home and cybersecurity.
That said, there are some steps you can take. Turner says that your first step should be to contact the mail carrier and file a complaint. "You can also contact your local police department to make a report as well as your credit card company, which could cover the cost of the stolen item," Turner says.
While most homeowners insurance doesn't insure against package theft, quite a few credit cards, such as Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, offer purchase protection or damage protection for stolen goods for purchases made with your credit card. You also will likely need to have filed a police report in order to file a claim with your credit card.
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