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Survey: Up to $74 Billion in Packages May Be Vulnerable to Porch Pirates This Year

Nearly a third of people will track their package delivery online, but there are additional ways to protect your purchases.

Nick Wolny Senior Editor
A classically trained French hornist by education, Nick Wolny is a senior editor and journalist at CNET, where he oversees coverage related to consumer spending, consumer tech and personal finance. He is also the finance columnist for Out magazine and a frequent television correspondent, and was previously senior editor at NextAdvisor, in partnership with Time, where he oversaw coverage of the financial independence movement. Prior to journalism, Nick owned a content marketing agency, a business he converted into a fractional consultancy upon pivoting his career. He has previously written thought leadership columns for Fast Company, Insider, Entrepreneur Magazine and Fortune, and is based in Los Angeles.
Expertise Consumer spending, consumer tech, side hustles, entrepreneurship, financial independence (FI) movement, taxes Credentials
  • He was named a "40 under 40" by the Houston Business Journal in 2021.
Nick Wolny
5 min read
porch theft
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Approximately $74 billion in e-commerce items are expected to arrive on our' doorsteps this holiday season, but only 68% of shoppers have preventive actions planned to deal with the risk of theft.

An exclusive CNET Money survey projects that as many as 104 million Americans anticipate leaving their homes unattended for at least 6 hours. That would create the same windows of opportunity that Security.org found led to 44 million package thefts in the US in 2022. The survey found that package tracking technology (32%) and home security camera footage (21%) are the top theft prevention strategies respondents plan to lean on.

Although online shopping volume is expected to again break records this year, financial factors such as ongoing inflation and the resumption of student loan repayment threaten to erode consumers' purchasing power. Porch theft creates inconvenience and can exacerbate money stress, since responsibility for a package transfers from seller to consumer the moment a delivery driver marks the dropoff as complete. 

Here's what to know to avoid setbacks and ensure you receive all your holiday packages this year.

Online shopping is bigger than ever

Despite the financial challenges, most people still expect to overspend this fall, and much of that will occur online.

E-commerce continues to dominate the holiday shopping landscape, with only 16% of survey respondents saying they have no plans to purchase online goods this year. In the nearly four years since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the preference for shopping online appears to have become a permanent shift, as department stores trade out IRL doorbusting strategies for more robust digital experiences and events.

For retailers, there's a lot on the line, as a strong holiday season can deliver a third or more of overall annual revenue. Big-box retailers such as Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy began advertising their best Black Friday deals weeks ago, further blurring the lines of when peak holiday shopping season actually begins and ends. Over 90% of people will have started their holiday shopping by the end of November, according to a McKinsey analysis.

Consumers' budgets for the shopping season predictably vary by household income, according to our CNET Money survey. 

  • People who earn under $40,000 a year plan to spend an average of $184.78 online on physical items.
  • People who earn between $40,000 and $79,900 plan to spend roughly an average of $259.08 online on physical items.
  • People who earn $80,000 or more plan to spend an average of $527.88 online on physical items.

Our survey found that Americans will be out and about this holiday season. Two in five respondents expected to be away from their homes for more than 6 hours this holiday season, and over 1 in 5 (21%) expected to leave their homes unattended for 24 hours or more. Package theft can create headaches and spoil a gift-giving experience. Fortunately, you have several options for reliably protecting your recent purchases.

Tips to discourage package theft

Your best bet in the face of potential porch package theft is to cut out the porch component altogether. For important packages, consider having them sent to a local UPS Store, FedEx store or Amazon locker, where you know your package will be safe and sound no matter how long you're away from home.

  • UPS Store: Look up a UPS Access Point near you, then have your package sent to that location and you'll be notified when it arrives. Bring a government-issued ID with you when picking up.
  • FedEx store: Use FedEx Hold for Pickup to reroute a package to be delivered to a FedEx office location instead. Bring a government-issued ID with you when picking up.
  • Amazon Locker: Look for available Amazon Locker locations on your Amazon checkout page. Once the package is delivered, you'll receive a code that you can use to open the locker and retrieve your package.

"The logistics people I'm talking to just can't say enough good things about the lockers," said Michael Giusti, an analyst with InsuranceQuotes.com. A separate survey from InsuranceQuotes.com found that 24% of Americans reported having a delivered package stolen from their front porch or doorstep.

Amazon also offers Amazon Key In-Garage Delivery. With this option, your Amazon delivery driver will place your package inside a garage or other gated area for added security. Delivery is free when you let packages be delivered on your designated "Amazon Day" of the week, or you can choose the day you want an item delivered for $2. To use in-garage delivery, you'll need a smart garage door opener; Amazon Key integrates with MyQ, the Genie Aladdin Connect and Overhead Door.

Although some people invest in home security cameras partially to deter porch pirates, actual evidence that video doorbells reduce crime has been difficult to pinpoint. Consider also using resources like location tracking and the watchful eyes of neighbors to better ascertain when a package has arrived.

What to do if your package gets stolen

If your package does get swiped, there are some actions you can take to try and recoup the cost of your purchase.

First, contact the retailer about a replacement. Although the seller is technically off the hook the moment the delivery driver signs off, some retailers simplify the refund and replacement process to cut down on dealing with insurance claims. A refund process can sometimes take a while, so if you're on a tight deadline to receive an item for gifting, consider ordering it again concurrently to save time. Also look into your current credit card perks; some cards offer purchase protection that can be leveraged in the event of package theft.

If the retailer isn't budging, you can file an insurance claim with your homeowners insurance or renters insurance, but you should weigh the pros and cons, said Giusti. "The problem is that insurance comes with a deductible. And then the other problem is if you start making claims on your homeowners insurance, especially for something relatively trivial like porch theft, you may be flagged as a bigger risk."

If you're filing a claim, you'll also need to file a police report. "No insurance policy is going to just take your word for it -- you're going to need a paper trail," Giusti said. Local precincts vary widely in their non-emergency reporting processes, but clear online information is available for most. You can also file a claim with the shipper, but without video footage they'll likely deem your package lost, rather than stolen, which can lead to processing delays.

Porch piracy persists. By being diligent with orders and shipping, you can better protect yourself from thieves and enjoy a more harmonious holiday season.

Methodology: CNET commissioned YouGov PLC to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov PLC. The total sample size was 2,386 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken Oct. 20-24, 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.