Online retailing has boomed during the pandemic because it’s a contact-free way of buying items without leaving home to do so. The convenience is clear, but there is a pitfall of purchasing items online, and that’s the “porch pirate”. The term comes from America, where theft of packages from outside people’s homes has significantly increased, from a small but accepted problem a few years ago to a real issue during the pandemic, simply because there were more opportunities for theft as more items were delivered. There is even a trend of “parcel scalpers”, who follow delivery drivers around their route and retrieve the packages they have left only moments before.
A home CCTV system is the obvious answer to the problem, as you’ll have clear proof that the item was stolen and who the perpetrator was. This can be really helpful in getting a replacement item delivered or a refund from the retailer. It can also help the police find out who is committing these crimes. A video doorbell can be a good tool here, not just for the recording capability, but for the ability to speak to whoever is lurking outside your door taking their pick of your deliveries. Sometimes this is enough to scare the thief off and they’ll leave your home alone in the future but if they still take your item you do, at least, have proof. In many cases just the prospect of being caught on camera will deter some thieves, so CCTV or video doorbells are both great tools in the fight against doorstep devilry.
Having proof of a theft doesn’t always mean you’ll get your money back, or a replacement sent, so while you may be able to make a claim with the retailer or shipping company, for high value items you’re best off going through your home and contents insurance company. We’d recommend ensuring that high value items are delivered at a time when someone will be in to take the delivery, or that you agree with a neighbour that they will receive the package on your behalf. You can also consider getting expensive items shipped to your work address instead.
If you have a safe place where items can be left out of sight, such as a porch with a screen or second door that can be left unlocked, then this is a great place for parcels to be left and you can provide delivery instructions on most online sites. Other safe places include sheds and outbuildings, but do be aware that prospective thieves watching the driver will know where the parcel has been put, and they may end up stealing other items at the same time.
Many delivery companies, or the retailers themselves, have started sending emails and text messages letting you know the estimated time of delivery, and then when the item has been delivered. This means you can either nip home if you are out, or call a neighbour and ask them to keep the parcel safe until you return.
Some supermarkets have trialled a scheme where their drivers are given access to your home through a smart lock or key safe, so they can unload your groceries or lock your parcels inside your home. At present this isn’t a widespread practice and during the Covid era the idea of people actually going into your home isn’t well received, but when life returns to normal we may see more schemes like this taking off. Trust is a big part of making ideas like this work, but when these are run by major retailers this should improve consumer confidence in the safety of allowing your deliveries to be delivered to behind your front door.