One unfortunate side-effect of our modern buy-everything-online lifestyle: package theft. A box or pile of boxes left sitting on your front stoop makes an easy target for "porch pirates," some of whom follow delivery trucks and scoop up packages moments after they're dropped off.
This has turned into a serious problem. According to a recent Comcast Xfinity Home survey, some 30 percent of Americans have had a package stolen from outside their home.
So what can do you? How can you thwart these thieves? Let's take a look at some of your options.
Sign up for Amazon Key
Amazon is tackling this problem head-on with Amazon Key, which combines a smart lock and security camera that will allow delivery services to place packages just inside your front door.
Yep, inside your door. That means you have to be willing to allow a complete stranger to enter your house. The camera monitors the whole thing, but it's still kind of an unsettling notion.
The Key kit starts at $250, a price that includes professional installation. It's currently available in about three dozen US cities, with more planned for 2018, and you must be an Amazon Prime subscriber to get it.
See if there's an Amazon Locker near you
Amazon deliveries don't have to end up on your porch. They can go to Amazon Lockers, which are exactly that: lockers located in various high-profile locations (think Whole Foods, department stores, etc.). Upon delivery, you'll receive the combination needed to retrieve your package.
Of course, the whole point of package delivery is convenience; driving to a store kind of defeats the purpose. But if you frequently shop at, say, Whole Foods anyway, and you're not receiving particularly large or heavy packages, this does offer a very safe alternative to your porch.
There's no charge to use Amazon Lockers, and you can also use them for returns -- a nice alternative to waiting in line at post office or UPS store.
Install a BoxLock
The BoxLock is a smart padlock that will open after successfully scanning a package. Then the driver can put your package inside your storage container. (Here's hoping he/she doesn't forget to lock it up again.
How about a locker for your porch, one that's not limited to Amazon deliveries? That's the idea behind BoxLock, a smart padlock that scans packages so that delivery drivers can unlock a storage box on your porch.
You provide the box; BoxLock handles the scanning and connectivity. The latter happens over Wi-Fi, with the lock checking the bar code to make sure it's a box you're expecting and one tagged "out for delivery." If so, presto: the lock opens.
Sounds like a pretty solid solution, but unfortunately the BoxLock isn't yet available; it's due to ship in August, and the only preorder option is via Kickstarter. If you decide to go that route, you can get one for as little as $89. Once it goes on sale, the BoxLock is expected to sell for $129.
Enlist a neighbor
Is there a neighbor you trust? One who's home most days? Consider asking if you can have packages shipped to his/her house. The hassle for you: picking up those packages at a time that's convenient for both you and the neighbor. The hassle for them: dealing with delivery drivers, keeping your stuff piled by their door, the aforementioned pickup logistics, etc.
Needless to say, this merits some kind of thank you, whether it's a plate of cookies, a Starbucks gift card, a shoveled driveway in winter -- you get the idea.
Have packages delivered to the office
This is arguably one of the safest options, as delivery becomes an "inside job" (meaning packages aren't left outside). However, there are a few considerations, not the least of which is the need to juggle one or more boxes from your office to your car (or, if you're a commuter, to your train, bus, etc.).
If you work in a large building, you may be subject to the whims of the mailroom -- boxes can just as easily get delayed or misplaced between there and your desk.
Finally, it's not uncommon for delivery attempts to happen in the evening, after the building is closed. That could lead to packages getting returned because there's no one to receive them.
Security cameras fake-security-cameras
Fake or real? Hopefully a porch-pirate won't risk finding out.
No thief is going to risk getting caught on camera, right? Actually, cameras aren't much of a deterrent if criminals don't know they're there, which is quite possible with unobtrusive products like the Ring 2 or new Blink Video Doorbell. And that's the whole point: to deter the theft.
So while it's increasingly affordable to add a video camera to your front porch (the aforementioned Blink costs just $99), you might do just as well (or better) with a fake one that really stands out.
For example, this two-pack of dummy security cameras sells for just $10. They look pretty convincing, though professional thieves can probably spot fakes. (Pro tip: Don't bother with the battery-powered red LED in each camera, as real ones don't actually blink.) You also get a sticker that warns, "24 hour security cameras recording."
I'm not saying you shouldn't deploy the real thing, because obviously a fake won't give you footage you can use to help convict a thief. I'm saying that a video doorbell might not deter an amateur porch-pirate because it doesn't announce, "I'm a video camera!"