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How to protect your packages from theft this holiday

Here's how to keep an eye on deliveries, even when you're away from home.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The convenience of shopping online is often coupled with concerns about package theft, particularly during the holiday season. 

"It's a quick theft," Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Genae Cook told CBS affiliate WTTV. "(What) you'll notice is cars going back and forth up and down the street, so it's a good time for your neighbors to be diligent watching out for strangers in the neighborhood."

Fortunately, the proliferation of smart home devices means you can now monitor deliveries without actually being home.  Read on to find out what products and services will help you keep a virtual "eye" on your holiday packages, no matter where you are. 

The Ring Stick Up Cam Wired.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Outdoor security cameras

A traditional power-adapter-tethered security camera like the Ring Stick Up Cam (wired) can go a long way to help you monitor what's happening in your front yard. Pull up a live video feed in crisp 1080p high-definition anywhere your phone is connected to a Wi-Fi or cellular network, and you'll receive motion alerts when activity is detected. Speak with visitors via the camera's built-in microphone and speaker. Ask a delivery person to hide packages behind a column or inside your screened-in porch. And in the worst-case scenario, tell someone lurking around your deliveries that you're calling the police.

Read more about the Ring Stick Up Cam Wired.

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Smart doorbells

Connected buzzers work in much the same way as traditional security cameras. The hardwired Nest Hello video doorbell has high-definition resolution, a live video feed, motion alerts and more. Subscribe to the Nest Aware cloud service for access to facial recognition. Create a database of familiar faces and receive custom alerts when "Kevin," "Ashlee" or any other frequent visitor shows up. You can also look back at your video footage with Nest Aware to help neighbors and law enforcement (if necessary) identify who's snagging holiday deliveries.

Read more about the Nest Hello.

The Ring Spotlight Cam.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Light and security camera hybrids

Integrated porch light-security cameras are an emerging smart home security category. The Ring Spotlight Cam (pictured), the Netatmo Presence and the Ring Floodlight Cam all combine smart lighting with smart video monitoring. With each of these devices, you can watch a live video feed, receive motion alerts and talk to people via two-way audio intercoms. But you can also program the lights to turn on and off at set times.

The Spotlight Cam even has a 110-decibel siren, so you can scare someone away when needed.

Read more about the Ring Spotlight Cam.

The Netgear Arlo Pro 2.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Battery-powered security cameras

For a less permanent option, consider a battery-powered security camera. Models like the weatherproof Netgear Arlo Pro 2 can withstand the elements (like the Nest Cam Outdoor), but they are much more mobile. Use one inside to keep an eye on your pet one day and move it outside when you're expecting a package delivery another day. Like the SkyBell HD, Netgear's indoor/outdoor Arlo cameras offer free 7-day event-based cloud storage. And when its battery is low, just recharge it with Netgear's included charger.

Read more about the Netgear Arlo Pro 2

The Amazon Key in-home delivery service. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Package deliveries inside your home

Amazon Prime members have another option to keep an eye on their packages. Instead of monitoring traditional outdoor deliveries with outdoor cameras, the Amazon Key service delivers Amazon packages inside your home. This service is available in select areas in the US. Check this list of cities to see if the Key service is available where you live. The Amazon Key In-Home Kit is required to enable the Key service. It includes one Key-enabled Amazon Cloud Cam indoor security camera and one Amazon-approved third-party smart lock from either Kwikset or Yale. With this kit, you can receive alerts when a courier arrives and watch them deliver the package inside your home.

Amazon isn't the first company to offer this type of service. Smart lock maker August, which was recently acquired by Yale's parent company, offers an in-home delivery service called August Access. Walmart also claims to be working on an in-home grocery delivery service.

Read more about the Amazon Key service

The MailHaven smart mailbox.


Smart package storage 

In addition to outdoor cameras and in-home delivery services, select companies offer smart storage options for your packages. One such company is MailHaven. MailHaven sells locking mailboxes with smart sensors that let you know when your packages are delivered through a related app. We haven't tested it out yet, but it looks much larger than a standard mailbox and should be able to hold some larger packages (as well as regular mail). 

Amazon also offers a Locker program in select areas that appears to work similarly to MailHaven. Of course, you have to travel to an Amazon Locker location, but these kiosks let you pick up Amazon packages on your own schedule with a six-digit code (rather than worrying about something sitting on your front porch).

Read more about MailHaven.

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