Tips to Avoid Holiday Package Theft

Don’t fall victim to this common crime!

With the holidays upon us, occurrences of “package theft” are increasing in many communities across the United States. This common crime occurs when thieves steal unattended delivered packages off of front porches. The crime typically occurs during the day, when many people are not at home.

If you or your loved ones are ordering gifts online this holiday season, be smart when it comes time to select delivery options. Here are several tips that will help you avoid becoming a victim of package theft.

1) Have packages delivered to your workplace, if your employer will allow it. Some employers may even choose to relax internal policies about receiving private mail at the workplace temporarily over the holiday season.

2) Request that the shipper hold your package at their pick-up facility, so you can pick it up in person directly from them.

A package thief makes her getaway. Photo courtesy of Fox 40 Sacramento. See story at http://fox40.com/2014/12/22/stockton-grinch-caught-and-cuffed/.

3) Have packages delivered to a place where they can be received in person. Neighbors who stay home during the day or retired relatives work particularly well.

4) If purchasing something online from a large retailer, have the item delivered to a local branch of the store so you can pick it up in person directly from them.

5) Request a specific date and time of delivery from the shipper when you know you’ll be home to receive the package.

6) Provide delivery instructions to the shipper in advance so that packages can be left at a safe location at your home that is out of sight from the street (for example, behind a potted plant or next to a shrub). Do not leave handwritten notes to the delivery person on your door with these instructions; they can also be read by thieves.

7) Sign up for delivery alerts from the shipper (which can take the form of text messages or e-mail messages), and once the package has been delivered, call a neighbor to have them take the package back to their place until you get home.

8) Request that the shipper require signature confirmation when the package is delivered; this prevents your package from being left unattended.

An Amazon Locker secure pick-up location. Courtesy of Ubergizmo. See http://www.ubergizmo.com/2014/04/amazon-lockers-now-accept-returns/.

There are other secure delivery options available as well, depending on which vendor you choose to use. For example, if you shop on Amazon.com, you can select to have your package delivered to an “Amazon Locker,” which is a secure site similar to a post office box at a local convenience store.

To find an Amazon Locker location near you, visit their website here.

If you’ve become the victim of package theft, call your local police department immediately to file a theft report. If you or a neighbor have surveillance video of the suspect, be sure to let the police know. Many police departments will post that video on their social media channels, which often will engage your community’s help to identify the suspect.

And finally, if you’re home during the day, be a good neighbor and be mindful of what’s going on in your neighborhood. If you see suspicious behavior, call the police immediately.


Zach Perron is a lieutenant with the Palo Alto Police Department in California, where he manages public affairs and social media outreach. You can follow him on Twitter: @zpPAPD.

Zach is part of The White Hat Syndicate, a Medium account launched on October 26 that aims to publish thought-provoking articles about cutting-edge homeland security topics. The six authors come from a diverse array of professional and personal backgrounds: legal, fire, environmental health, federal transportation security, and law enforcement.

The Syndicate invites you to engage us in conversation, either here on Medium or via Twitter. We look forward to the discussion.