Beware, holiday package thieves abound. Here's how to avoid them

The holiday season is almost here, and shopping online is likely to remain a popular alternative to the department store. The analytics company comScore said in a press release that consumers spent $35.3 billion online between November 1 and December 26, 2011, a 15 percent increase over the same period the previous year.

Online shopping offers a safe and comfortable respite from unruly crowds, but it has its own hazards. Many people who have gifts shipped to them have the packages left at their doorsteps by their carriers, and these unattended parcels prove irresistible to thieves, who need to do nothing more than walk away with them when no one’s looking.

The most obvious way to prevent this is not to have packages delivered to your home in the first place, and have them delivered to your workplace or a post office box instead. However, not everyone has these options.

“Companies don't want the mail room logistical issues or potential liability issues that come from handling employees' personal packages,” NCR Corp. Public Relations Manager Mark Scott said in an e-mail. However, he said that some companies offer options for their customers who can’t get packages at work and don’t want to rent a post office box, but don’t want to risk having them stolen off of their porches either.

“One thing many retailers are now implementing is order-online/pick-up in-store,” he said. “Customers can go to the retailer's web site, order a product and select an option of having it available at a nearby store.”

One online retailer that helps its customers negotiate this potential theft problem is the e-commerce giant It has introduced Amazon Locker, a service that allows products ordered through the website to be delivered to secure locations, such as participating 7-11 stores.

Customers choosing this option choose a location by address, zip code or nearby landmark during the checkout process. When the package is delivered, the customer receives a pick-up code by e-mail or text message, which he or she uses to open the locked compartment where the package has been delivered.

There are limitations to what can be delivered via this option. Package dimensions cannot exceed 11.8 x 11.8 x 11.8 inches, and its weight cannot exceed 10 pounds, so that flat-screen TV with 5.1 surround-sound speakers and separate subwoofer is sadly ineligible. However, the service is ideal for the delivery of phones, mp3 players, cameras and other products that represent an expensive loss when stolen.

There are also the tried and true methods of package security that have worked for decades prior to the invention of e-commerce, such as making arrangements with a neighbor to accept packages for you. You can also ask the U.S. Postal Service to hold your mail if you anticipate being away while a package is being delivered.

Finally, if you don’t receive a package that you were expecting, it may not be that it was stolen from in front of your house—you may be the victim of mail fraud. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service recommends that you first contact the shipper to make sure the items were sent correctly. If they were, it is recommended that you immediately file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

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Discuss this post

How about delivery companies take FULL responsibility and not leave packages on doorsteps? Or as a consumer, require ID & signature for delivery. I also think you can request to pick up at the local UPS or FedEx location as well or even Saturday delivery. Sure it's a little more hassle and maybe expense, but probably worth not worrying about it being stolen off your front porch.

  • 3 votes
Reply#1 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:14 PM EST

Hello folks, how many people will go out spend money they don't have on this corporate holiday and spend the rest of the year catching up and rinse and repeat the next "holiday" season?

I have an idea, how about getting together this year with your loved ones over a nice festive meal with no gifts? No pressure, no stress, no worries of package thieves or getting maced but just basking in the love and company of your family and friends.

  • 5 votes
Reply#2 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:23 PM EST

And while we're at it, refuse to shop at stores that open at 8 pm on Thursday. Show the workers that we don't expect them to give up their holiday just to serve us.

  • 8 votes
#2.1 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:31 PM EST

And while we're at it, refuse to shop at stores that open at 8 pm on Thursday.

Well, they are not making any money off of me then. And they never have. Are we all so damned materialistic that we go out at 8:00 PM on a holiday to shop? There isn't anything I want that bad!

  • 9 votes
#2.2 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:40 PM EST

And while we're at it, refuse to shop at stores that open at 8 pm on Thursday.

And those would be Target and Walmart.

We have a tradition in the family, once one is out of the house and has a job we send each other cards with a one dollar bill inside. It's the thought. Besides, Holidays are about family and only the children should be getting presents.

  • 2 votes
#2.3 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:06 PM EST

Fedex and UPS both allow you to setup alerts via email or SMS so you can find out the moment something is delivered, even if you aren't there to receive it. Both also offer tracking apps for smartphones and there are third-party apps to track packages from literally dozens of different delivery services.

And by the way, Amazon is increasingly using LaserShip on the East Coast so it's no longer just Fedex/UPS.

In any case, the recipient also now has a lot of power over the incoming packages. UPS now has a service called My Choice that lets you intercept incoming packages and have them sent anywhere else -for example, to a relative's house or your office or to a UPS store. After losing a package from my front doorstep, I now use this service to have all of my deliveries sent to a UPS Store next to where I work, so it's a snap to pick them up on my way home. The cool part is that it does not matter who sent it to you. If it's being sent to you, you can redirect it. Pretty awesome and well worth the cost.

  • 2 votes
Reply#3 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:42 PM EST

In the past, all packages had to be signed for... it was part of the service...

If no one was home to sign, then a tag was left so that arrangements could be made to deliver the package or the person could sign-off indicating that it was okay to leave on the front steps/porch...

If the delivery organization chooses to leave the package without getting the okay from the customer, then they should be responsible for the theft or damage (rain, etc.) of the package...

  • 2 votes
Reply#4 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:51 PM EST

I remember when I was younger all my 'girlie' mags would come in pre-opened for me. Unfortunately I couldn't say anything about it...

    Reply#5 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:15 PM EST

    HAHA! File a complaint with the Post Office....that they will never do anything about! If it gets lost or damaged with USPS, or stolen by a USPS employee, you're screwed....and they will do nothing to help you.

    ..and they wonder why they lost billions of dollars this year.

    • 1 vote
    Reply#6 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:23 PM EST

    I was going to post a similar comment.

    We get mail that is addressed to people in other states delivered to our address. And when I bring it to the post office to deliver correctly, it gets redelivered to us. We also don't always get our mail--bills, magazines and general correspondence, and a few times items such as bank statements and credit card statements have been delivered opened (and no, it wasn't faulty glue on the seal). When we complained to the local postmaster, he told us it wasn't his problem. Calling the 1-800 number does no good either.

      #6.1 - Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:03 PM EST
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