Package theft takes pretty much all the good will out of your holiday shopping experience, but there's still hope for worried holiday shoppers.
United Parcel Service (UPS) - Get United Parcel Service, Inc. Class B Report alone will deliver roughly 750 million packages this holiday season, or roughly 5% more than it did in 2016. The U.S. Postal Service, meanwhile, plans to deliver 850 million packages, or 10% more than last year. With Christmas falling on a Monday this year, Friday Dec. 22 is expected to be one of the busiest delivery days of the season.
This has a whole lot of holiday shoppers worried about package theft.
According to a report from insurance information and analysis site InsuranceQuotes.com, 25.9 million Americans (8%) have had a holiday package stolen from their front porch or doorstep. That's up from 23.5 million porch thefts reported in 2015, and includes 11 million homeowners who have had packages with an average value between $50 and $100 stolen in the last year, according to a study by home technology company August Home. However, with package theft getting outsized attention around this time of year, that same study found that, among the 53% of homeowners who are concerned about package theft year-round, 35% get more concerned around the holidays.
Among that group, 81% just don't trust other people and say folks just know that there are more packages to be had around the holiday season. However, 50% know that their own online ordering increases around the holidays, which they believe increases their chances that an item will be stolen. In that event, 46% think they won't have the chance to replace those gifts.
Roughly 70% of homeowners receive packages around the holidays, with 61% receiving more packages than they would at any other time during the year. Unfortunately, very few people actually alter their behavior when they know an increased number of holiday packages are coming. August Home found that roughly 74% of homeowners who've had packages stolen just had delivery people leave them on the front porch in the middle of the day.
"During the holidays, certain crimes and home hazards increase," says Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at insuranceQuotes. "Homeowners need to take precautions and make sure they have the right insurance to protect their finances."
Yes, you can insure your packages with some delivery services, but best of luck getting refunded for your loss before Christmas -- especially if you did your online shopping later in the season. Accounting and consulting firm Deloitte notes that not only are U.S. shoppers doing 51% of their holiday shopping online, compared to 42% in stores, but 54% of all shoppers don't even start their Christmas shopping until December or later.
So what do you do if someone's snagged a gift this late in the season? Well, instead of calling the police immediately, retailers and shipping firms like UPS, FedEx and even the Postal Service suggest contacting them first and seeing if they can track down your parcel. If it went to another address or never made it off the truck, they'd be the first to know. Also, if someone had to sign for that package, congratulations: The shipping company is now liable for your missing package.
While you're waiting on that response, check around your property to see if a delivery person hid a package without your knowledge. A package tucked a bit further down the porch or beneath a hedge by a delivery person isn't uncommon around this time of year.
Also, you can contact the company whose credit or debit card you used to buy the product to see if they'll cover your loss. American Express (AXP) - Get American Express Company Report , for instance, offers purchase protection to all cardholders for purchases up to $1,000. That coverage is good for 90 days after the purchase and covers theft.
Higher-tier cardholders may be protected for up to $10,000 per purchase. Barclays (BCS) - Get Barclays PLC Sponsored ADR Report , JPMorgan Chase (JPM) - Get JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Report , Citibank (C) - Get Citigroup Inc. Report and Discover (DFS) - Get Discover Financial Services Report all offer cards with similar purchase protection, according to CreditCards.com. However, even if you are covered, just about everyone from retailers to credit card companies advises filling out a police report if your package is actually gone. Not only will it help you get reimbursed, but it could help prevent other incidents from happening.
"Unfortunately, porch theft is a difficult problem to address," says Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO of the risk-mitigation firm Chargebacks911. "While there are organized groups who engage in this practice, it is most often a crime of convenience; the thief sees a package sitting unattended, and simply grabs it."
As always, the best way to prevent a package from being stolen is to take action before it happens. The folks at insurance company Travelers suggest having your packages delivered to a location where they can be received in person, such as a neighbor's home or your workplace. With August Home finding that 49% of people who had a package stolen eventually had the replacement shipped to their job or to family/friends, it might not be such a bad idea to cut out the middle man.
Also, when you're shopping online, Travelers suggests choosing a delivery time, if the option is available. Considering that Amazon now has lockers located at convenience stores and UPS and FedEx (FDX) - Get FedEx Corporation Report will hold packages at UPS Stores and FedEx Kinkos locations, it isn't such a shabby idea to send packages there, either. Even retailers like Walmart (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report , Target (TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report , Kohl's (KSS) - Get Kohl's Corporation (KSS) Report , Home Depot (HD) - Get Home Depot, Inc. (HD) Report and Lowe's (LOW) - Get Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW) Report will often allow for in-store pickup of certain online orders.
You could be super proactive about it by installing digital surveillance cameras, your own digital locker (like the Landport, which starts at $499) or Package Guard's pressure-sensitive, alarm-enabled Wi-Fi disc ($89.)
"It's really important to make sure we're not forgetting some of the basics of home safety during this time of year," says Emily Long, security expert with home security publication ASecureLife. "The holidays shouldn't be a time for unexpected hazards."
More of What's Trending on TheStreet:
- 6 Top Bitcoin Predictions For 2018
- Mastercard Launches 'Assemble' Digital Platform to Woo Millennials
- Bitcoin's Explosion and Booming Stock Market Must Terrify Federal Reserve
- 3 Potential Reasons Tesla's Stock Is Rallying in December
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.