By Lauren Schwahn
An estimated 1 in 5 Americans reported being victims of package theft over the summer — reaching near “peak levels” — according to a survey from Security.org, a security research site. And porch pirates typically get even more brazen around the holidays.
Worried about your Black Friday purchases or Grandma’s gingerbread cookie care box arriving safely? Here’s how to protect your holiday packages.
Track Your Packages
Most delivery services provide tracking information so you can easily follow along with order updates. The United States Postal Service, FedEx (FDX) - Get Report and others also allow you to sign up for shipment alerts through a combination of email, text, phone call or app notifications. Once you get an estimated delivery day or time, arrange for someone to be home during that window.
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Leave Special Delivery Instructions
Try as you might, perfectly timing your package’s arrival isn’t always possible. If you suspect nobody will be around to accept the order, leave specific instructions for the delivery driver. For example, you can require a signature for delivery or request the package be left at a side door or with a neighbor.
You’ll likely need an account with the carrier and the order tracking number to set preferences. Some services charge for certain special requests, so read the details carefully before choosing an alternative.
Install a Security Camera
A front-door or doorbell camera can scare off would-be thieves, but it’s not a guarantee. In the event someone swipes your package, having one can still help you out, though. You can submit footage as evidence when you file a claim or police report.
Plus, some cameras offer protection plans. The Kangaroo front door security kit comes with one year of the Kangaroo Complete plan, which reimburses up to $150 for stolen packages twice a year.
Allow Amazon to Leave Packages Inside Your Garage or Gate
Key by Amazon, (AMZN) - Get Report a smart home system, lets you get packages dropped off inside your garage, gate, car or home (in-home and in-car deliveries have been paused due to Covid-19). With this method, drivers get secure, one-time access to unlock the door and leave your package.
But Key works only with Amazon orders, and there are some requirements: You must have a Prime membership, live in an eligible area, purchase the necessary equipment or own a compatible car.
Send Packages to a Facility, Locker or Store
Picking up an order somewhere other than your residence isn’t the most convenient option, but it could be the safest. Consider making a post office, self-service locker or retail location the shipping destination.
You can reroute FedEx packages to a nearby Walgreens (WBA) - Get Report or send Amazon orders to a secure locker. UPS (UPS) - Get Report has Access Point pick-up locations at its stores as well as Michaels, CVS Pharmacy (CVS) - Get Report and Advance Auto Parts.
Ordering from a retailer with brick-and-mortar locations? Explore curbside or in-store pickup options.
If Something Goes Wrong, Contact the Retailer or Delivery Service
If your package is missing, reach out to the merchant first, then the carrier responsible for delivery (if necessary). They may issue a replacement or refund your money, depending on the circumstances and their order policies.
Check Your Credit Card Details and Insurance Policy
If the retailer or delivery company won’t cover you, your existing credit card or insurance provider might. Many credit cards include purchase protection, a benefit that covers stolen items up to a certain amount. Purchase protection usually applies only for a specific period of time following a purchase.
Homeowners and renters insurance policies often include protection for stolen personal property, too. Check yours to find out if you’re covered. Insurance providers, like credit card companies, typically require you to file a claim and police report to take advantage. However, most deductibles are set at $500 or more, so you’ll probably end up paying more out of pocket to file a claim than your item is worth.
File a Police Report
Filing a police report can still be a good idea even if you don’t submit a claim through your credit card or insurance company. The information you provide can help law enforcement track down thieves and possibly reunite you with your stolen goods.
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Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.