Due to concerns about being out and about during the current Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all come to rely on online shopping more than ever. However, all those boxes on your front porch come with a new danger, porch pirates. According to C+R Research, 36% , nearly 4 in 10, Americans have had their packages stolen outside their home. Unlike other forms of theft like shoplifting or burglary, walking to someone’s house and swiping a package takes no skill or prior experience. And these pirates continue to get more brazen as the holiday season approaches. A man in DC even had a package containing his mother’s ashes stolen from his apartment building. Having your USPS package stolen is stressful enough so here’s a guide for what to do when you fall victim to a porch pirate.
Track the Package
The first thing to do if you suspect your package has been stolen is to track it. This is usually done with a tracking number that’s attached to your order confirmation email. A tracking number allows you to see the route your package has taken and its shipping status. The number in your email is usually hyperlinked, so clicking on it will take you directly to the site, but if not, you should be able to copy and paste the number directly into the USPS website. If the shipping status of your package says delivered, it’s time to buckle down and do some investigating. If you did not receive a tracking number, there’s no way to locate where your package was last located without contacting the retailer.
Check with Neighbors
No one wants to spend hours on the phone with customer service, so before you get to that point talk to your neighbors! Sometimes delivery drivers will leave a package with your neighbors if they feel like your porch leaves your package to open for thieves. And of course, we’ve all accidently gotten some of our neighbor’s mail by mistake. Hopefully, your package will simply be next door but if not, ask your neighbor if they’ve witnessed anyone lurking around your house or move onto the next step, contacting the sender.
Contact the Sender
If it looks like your package was stolen, contact the retailer that sold you the item to let them know your package wasn’t delivered. Most retailers have policies in place to handle stolen packages and will either refund or send you a replacement.
However, if the retailer doesn’t want to make up for the lost purchase, don’t lose hope. Make sure to hold on to any proof that supports your claim.
- Your order confirmation number and any anything else that proves you purchased the item from the company
- Photos of where the package was stated to be located but wasn’t
- Delivery notifications that you can share with the retailer to aid them in contacting USPS
If your package was from a friend or family member, they’d have more useful information to contact either the retailer or USPS with.
If getting a refund from the retailer doesn’t work out, it’s time to contact USPS directly This can be done one of two ways depending on whether your stolen USPS package was insured or not. If it was not insured, all you’re able to do is a missing mail search. Like the name suggests, once you initiate a missing mail search, USPS will search their trucks and facilities for your package.
Here’s how to start the search:
- Check your tracking number: A missing mail search can only be launched, 7 days after the package has been shipped.
- Visit missingmail.usps.com and set up an account: if you don’t already have one create a username and password and confirm your email. Once your account is set you’ll need to login and enter the mail date, tracking number, the address of the sender, the receiver’s (you) address, as well as a description of the package and its contents. This includes the size, shape, and color of the package as well as well as proof of the content’s worth. This will help if you intend to get a refund.
- The Search: USPS will then search their facilities to determine if your package was ever delivered. You should receive periodic updates.
- The Result: If your package is found, you will be notified and the package will be forwarded to the address you provided. In some cases if the package is too damaged they may be unable to forward it to you. If USPS could not find the package it’ll be considered stolen and you’ll need to file a claim for any losses.
File a USPS Claim
If you bought insurance, a USPS claim will cover the shipping costs and package value up to the specified amount for damaged or lost mail, Some services like Express Mail also have delivery guarantees so you’re able to file a claim if it doesn’t arrive on time. If your package was not insured and a missing mail search was conducted and the package was deemed stolen or damaged, a claim will only cover the shipping costs. Either the sender or the receiver can file the claim. Here’s how to do so:
- Determine if you’re within the filing period
The filing period changes depending on the type of service that was used. It’s based on the mailing date on your receipt.
*International claims have slightly different protocols because they require working with an overseas post office. A claim for an international package must be filed from a US based mail sender.
- Visit www.onlineclaims.usps.com: Once you’ve either created or signed into your account, all you need to do is fill out the necessary information and USPS will process your claim, and if they decide it’s appropriate, refund both the value of your package and the shipping. The claim form allows you to upload a 2mb Jpeg or PDF. This feature allows you to provide proof of insurance as well as proof of the value of your package.
- Acceptable Proof of Insurance
- Original mailing receipt issued at the time of mailing
- Outer packaging showing the names and addresses of the sender and the addressee and the proper label showing that the article was sent insured
- Printed electronic online label record or computer printout from the application used to print the label and purchase the insurance
- Acceptable Proof of Insurance
- Acceptable Proof of Value
- Sales Receipts
- Paid Invoices or bill of sale
- Electronic receipts for online purchases
- Credit card billing statement
- Statement of value and/or estimates of repair costs from a reputable dealer
- Acceptable Proof of Value
- Claims Decisions: You can keep track of all your past claims via the claims dashboard. USPS typically makes a decision in 5-10 days. Claims for damaged items are usually processed quicker than lost items which must have a missing mail search conducted before they make a decision.
- Approved Claims
- The claim can be either fully or partially approved
- Payment will be received in 7-10 business days
- USPS won’t pay a claim higher than the item’s actual value
- Denied Claims
- The claim be either fully or partially denied
- The decision letter will include reasons for denial
- Approved Claims
If your claim was partially approved or completely denied you can file an appeal if it’s within 30 days of the decision.
- Submit the claim the first way you filed the first one. If it was online this can be done by visiting your Claims History
- Focus the appeal on the reasons it was initially denied
- If applicable, submit new supporting documents
If your first appeal was denied, you can file a second one within 30 days of the decision using the same process
Homeowners Insurance Claim
You can use your homeowners or renters insurance policies to cover stolen packages however this is only for purchases that are worth more than your deductible. Since most homeowners insurance deductibles are around $1,000 this won’t cover the typical stolen package. However, if the package is worth more than your deductible, there is still a possibility that filing the claim might increase your premiums.
Credit Card Purchase Protection
Another way to secure a refund is Purchase Protection. Purchase Protection is a benefit offered by most credit cards. It allows the credit card holder to be reimbursed after notifying the card issuer that an item purchased entirely with the credit card was stolen or damaged. To see if you have this coverage and file a claim, check your credit card provider’s website. Some companies won’t cover high-value items, require you to file a police report, or will only enact purchase protection after you’ve used a primary coverage like homeowners or renter’s insurance.
File a Police Report
If you believe your package was stolen, in addition to your USPS claim, you can also file a police report. Stealing USPS packages is a punishable offense. In Texas, lawmakers passed a bill that fines people convicted of porch piracy anywhere between $4,000 to $10,000, along with a possible six months to 10 years in prison. If there aren’t any witnesses, there may not be much they can do, but if your neighbors are filing similar reports it can lead to an investigation.
How to Prevent Stolen USPS Packages
Now that you know what to do if you’re USPS package is stolen, here’s ways you can prevent it from happening again:
- Catch them on Video
This is where doorbell and outdoor security cameras come in handy. Some are equipped to send you alerts when your doorbell is rung and others constantly record. If you’re expecting a package you can be alerted wherever you are when it arrives. And if you’re not there when it arrives and it’s missing by the time you make it your porch you can watch back the footage to see if someone walked away with it or if the carrier arrived at all. This provides you with hard evidence of theft for a police report and guarantees you a refund if you can prove the carrier did not arrive.
- Porch Light
Another deterrent for porch pirates would be a motion-detected porch light. This light prevents the thieves from having shadows to lurk in as well as makes it easily noticeable to your neighbors if someone is circling your home.
- In Person Delivery
The best, although often dubbed the most tedious, prevention method is scheduling for in person delivery. This means you’ll need to inform USPS that you’ll require a signature for delivery or have your mail delivered to an address where someone is always present. If it’s cleared with your employer you can also use your workplace as a shipping address.
- A Virtual Mailbox
Finally, the last way to make sure your packages are always safe is to get a Virtual Mailbox. Once you sign up for a Virtual Mailbox service you’re provided with a physical address your mail can be sent to. Once your mail arrives at the address, the outside of the package/envelope is scanned and uploaded it your virtual mailbox in which you can decide whether you want it opened and scanned (if it’s a letter), shredded, forwarded to you, or whether you want to pick it up in person.
With US Global Mail, this physical address is a warehouse in Houston with 24/7 security cameras as well as actual security personnel. They can guarantee nothing is being stolen off their porch! This secure system not only keeps your packages safe, but also allows you to be able to travel the world and still check your mailbox with one click.