You don’t have to worry about just the Grinch.
the main points
- Holidays are expensive enough, so don’t let thieves take your holiday gift packages.
- You can drop off items to secure locations, such as your mailbox or your workplace.
- Keep track of the shipper closely, or even ask a neighbor to cut a parcel off the porch for you.
The holiday season can be an especially expensive time of year. This year, we’re also battling record inflation, which even came down to your fancy holiday coffee. There are certainly plenty of ways to save money during the holidays. But one place you may be most reluctant to cut back is on your gift spending. It really is the time and care you give your loved ones all year long, but I can understand the impulse to splurge a bit. Just try to avoid getting into credit card debt, especially with interest rates so high.
What you don’t want is choosing the perfect gifts – only to have someone steal your packages. These vicious thieves are called “porch hackers,” and it can be a real bummer to receive that email from Amazon saying your package has been delivered, only to find out it’s missing. Here’s what you can do to ensure your holiday gifts reach their intended recipients.
1. Add special delivery instructions
In many cases, you can decide how you want your packages to be delivered to you. You can add a note that beams should be left on the back porch if the front entrance is highly visible to the entire neighborhood. You may also consider asking for a signature for delivery; If you’re ordering something expensive (like jewelry), that’s always recommended, and if you’re ordering something age-restricted (like alcohol), the shipper might order it anyway. You’ll need to go home – if you miss a delivery multiple times, your package can be returned.
2. Use a mailbox or pickup site
Instead of having packages delivered to your home, if you’re ordering from Amazon, you might consider getting a PO Box or using the Amazon pick-up site. These are designated merchant locations (or self-service locker kiosks within) where Amazon drivers can leave packages and you can swing by to pick them up.
3. Send the parcel to work
This was my con for years when I lived in a series of rentals with no safe place to leave packages and also worked away from home. If your business premises is accessible to the public and there is a place to leave packages, you can put the office address as your drop-off location. You may run into a problem if the attempted delivery is made when the building is closed, but this works in most cases (and if the business owner doesn’t mind).
4. Track this tracking
While modern life has its downsides, tracking packages is definitely not one of them. I work from home now, but I live on the second floor of a two family home and can’t see the front porch (or post office) from my apartment. As soon as a tracking number is available, I sign up for text alerts so if a package hits the porch, I’m notified and I can run to pick it up.
5. Install motion sensor lights
Motion sensor lights may be a good addition to your home even without the threat of porch hackers, as they can save you from fumbling to get your key in the door on a cold, dark winter evening when you forgot to turn on the porch light–again. While turning on a light while someone is jumping on your porch won’t stop them from grabbing the box and taking off, it might give them some pause about whether you have other security measures in place – or they might assume you’ve tapped your light and are watching them through a nearby window, and so on. Ready to report theft.
6. Consider a video doorbell
Smart doorbells with cameras are the trendy trend these days and sometimes you can find a good deal on one of them by buying at the right time and using the right credit card. They can function as home security cameras and can be set to notify you if someone is at your door. In addition, some camera settings have sound enabled, which allows you to speak with the visitor (and vice versa). If you have one of these things and someone passes your package over, you will have recorded video evidence of the theft.
7. Ask a neighbor for help
Finally, if you’re friendly with a neighbor and you know they’ll be home the day you have a package coming in, you can ask them to snag it and keep it so it doesn’t get stolen. I’ve lived in multi-family homes on and off for a number of years and have done so for neighbors and vice versa. If you ask a neighbor to help you out, consider thanking them with a baked holiday. (Once, I got a banana bread to bring in the big TV my upstairs neighbors ordered.) A good relationship with your neighbors can be beneficial in all kinds of other situations as well.
Did you lose a package?
If you are a victim of balcony hacking, here is what to do:
- Contact the retailer: Some will tell you that you’re out of luck, because the risk of loss passes to you as the buyer once the package leaves the shipper’s hands. But some companies may provide you with a replacement item for free.
- Contact the shipper: You can file a claim for the lost item and may be compensated.
- Check your credit card benefits: If you used a credit card to make the purchase, you may get Purchase Protection benefits that will compensate you for the loss.
- Call the police: There may not be much you can do, but if the package you lost contained something very expensive, it might be worth it. You may also need a police report to file a claim with your retailer, shipper, or credit card company.
Losing a package to porch pirates can derail your vacation. Follow these pointers to stop them in their tracks.
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