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How to stop package thieves

By Erika Rawes

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Years ago, holiday shopping meant battling crowds in brick-and-mortar stores. You’d have to drive around for a parking spot, wait in hour-long lines, and race to the shelf to get the last Elmo toy your nephew wanted so badly. Now, things are a bit different. For many of us, holiday shopping means staring at a screen, clicking away at different sites, researching products, and comparing deals. According to Rakuten’s 2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping data, “online revenue and purchases on Thanksgiving Day grew 28 percent and 35 percent YOY (year-over-year) respectively.”

Online shopping is becoming more the norm, and is taking its rightful place as the preferred method. There are some major drawbacks to shopping on the web though. Along with the convenience that comes with shopping from anywhere and having your items delivered to your door, there’s the added risk of theft.

During 2016-17, nearly one in five people in the U.S. had a package stolen, and the holidays are a time when package thefts tend to spike. Most people trying to thwart porch pirates already know tricks regarding delivery options, like requiring a signature, using Amazon Locker, or scheduling a delivery when they’re home. But, with some of those options, you lose out on the convenience that online shopping is supposed to provide. How can you protect yourself from porch pirates this holiday season? Here are some tips to help prevent package theft.

Get yourself some thief-stopping technology

Nest Hello Review
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You’ve probably seen videos on YouTube or Facebook where porch pirates are caught on video stealing packages. Devices like security cameras and video doorbells can help deter thieves in the first place. If a potential thief recognizes the technology they might run away. But even if they go through with attempting to steal the package, you’ll get a motion alert on your phone, and some cameras and doorbells feature intercoms that let you yell “drop that package!” at the would-be porch pirate. And if the person succeeds in the theft, you have the pirate on video, which you can share with neighbors, the police, and even your local TV station in an effort to catch them.

Some of our favorite video doorbells include the Nest Hello at $229. You can also go with Ring, which has a whole lineup of video doorbells to choose from. The original Ring doorbell is down to around $100, Ring 2 will cost you $200, and the Ring Pro is $250.

Netgear Arlo Pro 2 review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

As for cameras, we like the lineup from Arlo Pro. They’re great for catching porch pirates because they’re weather resistant, feature motion detection, and they even have a loud siren. You could also go with a Ring Spotlight Cam ($200), which has remote activated a siren you can set off if you see a thief lurking around when your not home. If you want a more inexpensive option, you could get a two-pack of outdoor Zmodo cameras for $65. Check out our picks for some of the best outdoor home security cameras here.

One additional security measure you can take is to post a sign on your porch that tells thieves they’re on camera. Signs that read things like “Smile, you’re on camera,” or “Porch pirates will be posted online” might make a thief think twice before going through with the crime.

Light your property up like a Christmas tree

ces 2016 home tech roundup sengled voice bulb
Jenny McGrath / Digital Trends

If there’s one thing that will deter a thief, it’s the thought of being identified. If your property is well-lit both inside and outside, a thief may think someone is home, or they might move to another house for fear they’ll be caught.

There are many different things you can do here. You can flood your home with smart motion sensing bulbs or even buy smart light switches with timer functions (like the Wemo smart light switch for $40) and bulbs (like this TP-Link Kasa for $20), so you can have your lights go on periodically when you’re not home. There are also smart porch lights, like the Maximus light and camera by Kuna.

Motion lighting will help to let you know if someone comes on your property. Ring’s Floodlight with Motion-Activated HD Security Camera, Two-Way Talk, and Siren Alarm is a wise pick, but it’s costly at $249. You could also go with something cheaper like Leonlite’s Dual-Head Motion-Activated LED Outdoor Security Light for $31 or just pick something up at your local hardware store.

Set a trap

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If you’re dealing with package thieves on a regular basis, you might need to resort to drastic (and perhaps immature) measures. Put out a fake package and fill it with glitter, sardines, or something else that will be no fun for someone to open. Use your imagination. Just be sure it’s nothing dangerous.

One clever inventor created a package-protecting alarm called Package Guard. The Frisbee-shaped device reads “place packages here.” If the package is removed from the device, the alarm goes off (kind of like a car alarm) and draws attention to the porch pirate.

You can also get other ideas on how to set a trap by searching “porch pirate trap” on YouTube. You’d be surprised at what some people have resorted to in order to keep thieves at bay.

Other tactics: train your dog, talk to your neighbors, fix your landscaping

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Dogs are excellent for home security. KTVB asked 86 incarcerated burglars what their biggest deterrents were when breaking into homes. Most of the burglars said if the homeowners had a big dog, that would stop them from entering the home.

If you have a dog, train your pup to bark when they sense someone on your porch or in your yard. The noise can draw attention to your property and potentially scare a thief away.


One simple way to help prevent people from stealing you packages is to have eyes on your house when you’re not home. Talk to neighbors you trust about them watching out for your packages while you’re away from the house, and you doing the same for them. Consider joining a Neighborhood watch, or using community apps like Nextdoor.


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American Alarm Systems suggests having a clear line of sight to your home to help prevent burglaries. Since package theft is still theft, they’re just not actually entering your home, the same idea applies here.

Keeping bushes and trees trimmed so it’s easy to see a person on your porch from a distance may help deter someone from stealing in front of your home. On the other hand, you may not want your line of sight to be so clear that everyone can see you have a pile of packages sitting on your porch. Clear it enough so a thief can’t hide, but not so much that you advertise that you have a stack of goodies ready for the taking.

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