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YouTuber uses glitter bomb, fart sprayer to punish package thieves

He isn't the first to go to extreme lengths to protect his porch.

A colorful mushroom cloud of glitter awaits package thieves in Mark Rober's prank.
Mark Rober via YouTube/Screenshot by CNET

Having a package stolen from your front porch is infuriating, but a former NASA engineer has a developed a wildly over-engineered but deliciously satisfying form of a vengeance.

After police couldn't help him, Mark Rober spent six months preparing a fake Apple HomePod package to tempt thieves. The prop worked all too well, as you can see on Rober's YouTube channel, where he shared the colorful results.

When thieves opened the package, a motorized tub blasted them with glitter. The package was also rigged with fart spray, which got some of them to toss the package. The package contained a built-in accelerometer, which sent a GPS signal to Rober so he could follow where the package was going. Best of all: A quartet of phones captured the action, uploading the video to the cloud just in case Rober couldn't recover the box.

The resulting video, "Package Thief vs. Glitter Bomb Trap," was the No. 1 on YouTube's trending list Tuesday. The title of the 11-minute video says it all, showing a series of bumbling thieves cursing hysterically as they tossed the package out of their cars or into trash cans.

"What the **** is that smell?" one perplexed thief asks his buddy. 

"Get that **** out of here, bro. You shouldn't have even grabbed that," the possible accomplice replies.

However, on Thursday, Rober admitted that some reactions in the original video, when packages were placed at other people's homes, appear to have been staged. Rober removed about a minute and a half of the original video after being "presented with information that caused me to doubt the veracity of 2 of the 5 reactions in the video," he said in a statement posted to Twitter.

"It appears (and I've since confirmed) in these two cases, the 'thieves' were actually acquaintances of the person helping me," he said in a statement posted on YouTube and Twitter. "I'm really sorry about this. Ultimately, I am responsible for the content that goes on my channel and I should have done more here."

Rober didn't respond to requests for comment, but said in his statement that the reactions were genuine when the package was taken from his home.

Rober's gadget is an extreme -- and hilarious -- example of people using tech to extract a little revenge against package thieves, who snatch unattended deliveries from porches and lobbies. Other examples have included recorded shotgun sounds to scare off potential robbers and sharing screenshots on Facebook of alleged package thieves. In 2013, a man went to great lengths to get back at a woman who stole an Amazon package, setting up an email address at which people could send anonymous tips about the thief and walking the streets with posters expressing his pain. The pinched cargo: Keurig K-Cups and an ice tray. 

Other reprisals have been more inventive. In 2010, a California man fitted a box with a car alarm and microphone after becoming suspicious that a UPS employee had stolen his laptop from a package. Ten minutes after he dropped off the rigged package at a UPS counter, the alarm went off. He wasn't, however, able to prove the employees had opened the box to rob him. 

As more people turn to online shopping, package theft has become relatively common in the US. Thirty percent of Americans have had a package stolen from outside their home, according to a Comcast Xfinity Home survey last year. In addition, more than half of Americans know someone who's had a package taken. 

While a glitter bomb package is an undeniably colorful way to stave off theft, some more practical -- though admittedly much less exciting -- options include installing security cameras and signing up for delivery alerts. Another option is to use Amazon Key, which combines a smart lock and a security camera to allow delivery service workers to place your package inside your home.   

If that sounds too boring, fear not. The internet is sure to bring you examples of people, who like Rober, go to great lengths to seek vengeance. Even the label for his glitter bomb package includes a reference to his "childhood hero and inspiration for this project," Home Alone's Kevin McCallister.

Rober also linked to his pal Sean Hodgins' video explaining how a glitter bomb works, in case you want a closer look at the setup.

Now playing: Watch this: 6 tips to keep packages from getting stolen off your...

First published Dec. 18 at 3:40 a.m. PT.
Update, 4:30 p.m.: Adds information on other people seeking revenge against package thieves, data on stolen packages and details about Rober's video.
Update, Dec. 21 at 10:31 a.m. PT: Adds statement from Rober about staged reactions.

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