The convenience of online shopping — free shipping, next-day delivery — is under threat by package thieves, also known as “porch pirates.” This threat is as common in rural locations as it is in urban and suburban communities.

According to a survey of online shoppers conducted by the Shorr Packaging Corporation, 31% of respondents reported they had experienced package theft in 2017. In a similar survey conducted by USA Today, more than half of Americans know someone who has experienced package theft.

USPS, UPS, and FedEx expect to deliver 2 billion packages this holiday season. To combat theft, these services are allowing customers to re-route packages to their offices or another “safe site.

Retailers are removing logos and anything else that may indicate what’s in the box. They are also having customers pick up their online orders at a one of their nearby store locations. Amazon is offering its Prime members Amazon Key, an electronic lock and video camera which allows the delivery service to drop packages in the home using a special key code. Walmart is currently testing a similar service. Amazon Lock is a local lockbox facility, currently with limited availability.

These services are useful for people who aren’t home to accept the delivery of a package. But what can the consumer do to safeguard their deliveries?

  1. Secure delivery. When purchasing online, choose the option which requires a signature for delivery.
  2. Hold packages. Have USPS, UPS, and FedEx hold your packages at their offices for pickup.
  3. Neighborhood watch. Start a neighborhood watch group. If everyone on the street is being vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity, a thief is more likely to stay away. Also, if you see a package on your neighbors porch, take it until they come home.
  4. Neighbors and relatives. Ask a neighbor or relative who lives close by if they’d be willing to accept package deliveries for you at their home.
  5. Send it to work. Check with your boss to see if it’s okay to have packages sent to you at work.
  6. Reschedule and/or reroute delivery. FedEx Delivery Manager and UPS My Choice are apps that let you reschedule and even reroute packages.
  7. Install a security system. Securing package delivery may require no more than installing a video camera that is visible to anyone considering taking a package. Home security systems come with a wide range of features and benefits as well as prices. From ADT and Xfinity to smaller companies such as Ring and Nest, these services have smartphone applications that allow for real-time surveillance of your property.

Fear of porch pirates is preventing the further growth of online purchases for a wide variety of products, especially high-end electronics. If a package is stolen from yours or a neighbor’s porch be sure to report it to the local police. The police will make a point of cruising the area on a regular basis to deter further thefts. They may even try to bait the thief by placing an expensive item in a box with a hidden GPS. As this problem continues to grow the number of solutions will no doubt grow with it.