USPS Warns to Never Do This With Your Packages

As we near the fall and winter holiday season, the number of packages traveling through the country is going to skyrocket. Millions of people will have at least one online purchase coming to their doorstep over the next few months, whether that's a Halloween costume, a gift purchased on Cyber Monday, or a loved one's Christmas present. But with loads of merchandise expected to come through the mail, thieves are also preparing themselves to take advantage of the situation. Thankfully, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has guidance on stolen packages that can help you keep your mail safe. Read on to find out what you should never do with your packages.

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Package theft is rising in the U.S.

If you've never had a package stolen, consider yourself lucky. According to the research organization Security.org, more than half of Americans—or 54 percent—report that they have been the victim of package theft at some point in their lives. As of July 2022, around 1 in 4 people reported that they have had a package stolen within the last three months. The experts at Security.org said this indicates "that recent package theft is on the rise."

"Package theft has become an epidemic of its own," the site said in July. "As we enter the season of online shopping holidays—Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November, and the holidays in December—it's important to learn just how rampant porch piracy really is and how we can protect ourselves."

The USPS has a major warning to prevent package theft.

Thieves are typically swiping packages straight from people's front porches—making it "the ultimate crime of convenience," according to Security.org. But the best way to keep yourself safe might be simpler than you think.

USPS communications representative Susan Wright said it all comes down to the fact that people should never be leaving their packages unattended for an extended period of time, The Dominion Post in Morgantown, West Virginia, reported.

"Just as wallets and purses shouldn't be left on the front seat of an unlocked car overnight—mail and packages shouldn't be left uncollected in mailboxes or on front porches for any length of time," Wright told the newspaper.

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The agency can hold packages for you so they won't be left uncollected.

Many people will have a trusted neighbor or nearby family member pick up their package if it's scheduled to arrive when they're not home. But if this is not an option for you, Wright told The Dominion Post that the USPS has a service that is meant to aide customers with this. According to the agency's website, customers can stop mail carriers from delivering their mail while they're gone through the Hold Mail service.

"Hold Mail requests will hold all mail (including letters and packages) for all individuals at the specified address," the USPS explains, noting that most individuals should be able to submit a request for this service online. Customers can have their mail held at their local post office for anywhere from three days to a maximum of 30 days.

If you've had a package stolen, report it to the USPS.

You should also consider enhancing your security measures by installing cameras to help deter package thieves, the experts at Security.org said.

The Monongalia County Sheriff's Department noted to The Dominion Post that it is currently looking into a series of packages thefts occurring throughout the county, and cameras are helping with the investigation. According to department officials, installing video doorbells or other video security devices can protect yourself and also provide valuable information for authorities if theft does occur. The Dominion Post reported that the Monongalia County department has already posted several photos of suspected package thieves who were caught on camera, asking for the public's help in identifying them.

Of course, no matter what prevention methods you take, there is still a chance your package gets stolen. If this happens to you, the USPS recommends you notify your local police, and you can also submit a report for theft of a package on the agency's website. Be aware that the USPS does not take financial responsibility for a package being stolen if it has been delivered to the correct address.

"If loss, damage or missing contents occur to any parcel after delivery by the Postal Service, indemnity will not be paid. This includes insured mail—including Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail, Registered Mail, COD—and Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express," Michael Hotovy, a spokesperson for the USPS, told Washington, D.C., CBS-affiliate WUSA in 2019. "If a customer has a home security camera system, ensure it captures activity at the front door and mailbox. If you catch any mail thieves in the act, save the video and alert your local Postal Inspectors."