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It’s a sure sign the holidays are here when packages of all shapes and sizes litter doorsteps and apartment lobbies.
This year, with more people than ever shopping from home during the pandemic, those piles of boxes are bound to tower even higher. It’s a ripe opportunity for package thieves.
But we’re here to help, not make you paranoid. So we’ve created a list of practical steps to make sure you get your goods. And if you do have a package stolen, we walk you through what to do to get a replacement or refund.
Preventing Package Theft
1. Consider granting Amazon inside access. If you’re an Amazon Prime member in select areas, you can sign up for Key by Amazon, a service in which you authorize an Amazon delivery driver to access your home.
Prepandemic, that meant the driver could leave your package in your home, garage, or car. The COVID-19 outbreak led Amazon to pause its in-home and in-car delivery services but still leave packages in your garage.
For in-garage delivery, you’ll need a Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Hub, $40. Pair this internet-connected device with your garage door motor to allow the Amazon courier to open and close your garage door (via a smartphone) for the delivery.
It also allows you to control your garage door from the Key by Amazon smartphone app. For added peace of mind, you can also connect a Ring video doorbell, $100 to $350, or Ring security camera, $60 to $250, to capture video footage of the delivery.
2. Monitor the front porch with a security cam or video doorbell. With a camera keeping watch, you can monitor your property from anywhere and record any activity. Some cameras, such as the Google Nest Hello video doorbell and Arlo Pro 2 security camera, can even detect the presence of packages. (Note that those services require a monthly fee.)
And if the cameras are visible, that alone might deter potential thieves. Consumer Reports has tested 50 wireless security cameras and video doorbells. Below, you’ll find two of our top picks. For more options, see our complete home security camera ratings.
3. Give the delivery service special instructions. Some services let you indicate where to leave your package if you’re not home.
Using UPS’ My Choice tool, FedEx’s Delivery Manager, and USPS Informed Delivery, you can instruct drivers to leave a package at a back door, with a building superintendent, or in a coded lockbox (see below).
FedEx and UPS also allow you to have deliveries diverted to another address (maybe your neighbor’s), placed on hold if you’re on vacation, or rescheduled for a different day. Both even have local partner merchants, such as FedEx and UPS stores, pharmacies, and grocery stores, that have agreed to accept deliveries on their customers’ behalf.
Another option is to have items sent to a retailer’s walk-in store for pickup, which may help you save on shipping fees.
Many but not all these services are free. FedEx, for example, charges $6 if you make an online request to redirect a package to a different location.
4. Use a lockbox or an Amazon Locker. Instead of having deliveries left unsecured at your front door, you can have them delivered into a lockbox on your property.
Landport, for example, makes lockboxes that can be opened using an access code you give to the deliveryperson. The box locks automatically after something is placed inside. (You can change the code after the delivery.) Lockboxes from Landport cost about $500 to $800, depending on size.
Another approach: Purchases made on Amazon.com can be delivered to an Amazon Locker—there are more than 2,800 of them in about 70 cities and towns, including at some Whole Foods markets.
When you check out on Amazon, put a locker location as the delivery address. Once your package is delivered, you’ll receive an email with a six-digit code to your locker, and you’ll have three days to pick it up. There is no charge for this service.
Just keep in mind that, depending on where the locker is located at the business, you might have to wait in line to get inside because of COVID-19-related occupancy limits.
5. Keep tabs on your packages by signing up for alerts. FedEx Delivery Manager, UPS My Choice, and USPS Informed Delivery all offer text, email, and/or mobile app alerts so that you know when a delivery will be made and can adjust your own schedule accordingly.
USPS Informed Delivery takes these alerts a step further and lets you digitally preview images of your mail and its location without entering tracking numbers. That way you can be sure to be at home if something important is arriving.
6. Require a signature. This way, packages aren’t simply dropped off outside your house. But, of course, you have to be home and available to receive the package—and you’re coming into contact with the courier.
Figuring Out If Your Package Was Stolen
FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service say they don’t cover thefts of delivered shipments.
If your package goes missing, take these steps.
Verify that the package was delivered. Call the shipping company to confirm that the item was left at your place and wasn’t taken on your behalf by someone, such as a well-meaning neighbor or building superintendent. If the package or its contents were stolen or otherwise lost while in the shipping company’s possession, you may be entitled to compensation. Most packages sent by UPS, for instance, are automatically covered for up to $100 in case of loss or damage.
Check your security cameras. If you have a security camera or video doorbell, review the footage to see if your package was delivered and whether it was stolen.
What to Do If Your Package Is Stolen
Contact the retailer. Retailers have different policies on how to handle theft of packages. Some, such as Target, have fine-print clauses saying the risk of loss passes to the buyer when the purchase is delivered to the shipping company. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Contact the shipping company. Shippers often require the sender, not the recipient, to initiate a claim. If the retailer won’t cooperate, contact the shipper as soon as possible. You have a limited number of days to file a claim.
Check your credit card benefits. Many credit cards have purchase protection that covers lost or stolen items. If your purchase was made with a credit card, you can make a claim with the issuer, says Daniel Blinn, managing attorney with the Consumer Law Group in Rocky Hill, Conn. If that doesn’t work, Blinn advises requesting a chargeback from your credit card company.
Check your insurance. As a last resort, you may be able to collect from your homeowners or renters insurance. But those policies usually have deductibles of $500 to $1,000 or more, so depending on the value of the contents in the package, your insurance might not be helpful.
Consider involving the police. For a small purchase, you might not want to do this, but you might need a police report if you’re making a claim with a retailer, a shipper, a credit card company, or an insurance company.
Smart Doorbells for Your Home
Looking for peace of mind and security when you’re not home? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports’ expert, Eric Hagerman, explains to host Jack Rico why a smart doorbell might be the answer.