Holiday Central

Watch out for 'porch pirates' who want to steal your holiday gift packages

Key Points
  • Residents of rural areas have a higher chance of being victimized by "porch pirates" who steal packages, according to video security company Blink.
  • North Dakota residents are about 26 more times likely to experience this theft than the average American.
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You're not the only one eagerly anticipating the arrival of all those Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases.

Package theft is more common than you may think, especially if you live in a rural area, according to an October study conducted by Blink, a video security company. The firm surveyed more than 10,000 U.S. consumers, and found that prevalence of that kind of theft varies widely.

States with the highest rates of package theft, compared with the national average, are:

1. North Dakota (26 times more likely to have a package stolen)
2. Vermont (16.5 times more likely)
3. Alaska (8 times more likely)
4. New Mexico (6 times more likely)

(Click to enlarge map, to see how your state fares.)

David Laubner, Blink's head of digital marketing and e-commerce, said he was initially surprised to find that urban areas were less at risk. But it makes sense, if thieves can more easily assume they aren't being watched.

"If a package is sitting there by itself in a rural area, there's not as many people around to see it," he said.

Roughly 1 in 10 adults say they have had a delivered package stolen from their home, before they got a chance to open it, according to a 2016 survey on "holiday hazards." Risk is likely to be elevated in the coming days, Laubner said.

This year, about 83 percent of consumers expect to use their desktops and/or laptops for holiday-season shopping, according to a September study by Deloitte.

"Package delivery goes way up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is one of the biggest online traffic days," said Laubner — and as home delivery increases, so does package theft. "You have to understand that there are more people looking for your packages than just you."

So what should you do if you're hit by a doorstep Grinch?

Contact the online retailer and explain the situation. Depending on the company, you could qualify for a refund or new shipment.

Your credit card issuer might also offer purchase protection. This may reimburse you for a stolen item, depending on the goods purchased, price and how recently you bought it.

Some consumers think retailers should be working harder to prevent theft by using more discreet packaging or offering to ship to a secure location, according to a recent survey by packaging distribution firm Shorr Packaging.

Until companies do become more responsive to this growing problem, there are a few simple steps you can take on your own, said Laubner:

Reroute your package

Think about having your goods delivered to a more secure location like your office, a local UPS store or an Amazon Locker. If rerouting isn't an option, Blink recommends requiring a signature upon delivery. This way, you're sure to be first to your package.

Leave delivery instructions

Place a note for your delivery person to let them know where to leave your parcel— anywhere from the back door to behind a plant on your porch. "Out of sight, out of mind," said Laubner.

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Advertise a security system

Place security stickers and yard signs in strategic areas. That can catch the attention of burglars and make them think twice about targeting you.

Enlist a neighbor

If you're expecting a package while you're on vacation or otherwise away from home, ask a neighbor to hold it for you.

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