By Evy Poumpouras, security expert and former Secret Service Special Agent
This holiday shopping season, more packages will be delivered to American homes than ever before. All those gifts will bring great joy, but they also mean thieves will be out looking for opportunities to steal packages too. After many years of experience working with law enforcement, here is my best advice to keep thieves away and prevent them from ruining your holiday.
One: Shop at reputable websites.
During this gift-giving season, you’ll receive emails from fraudsters promising amazing discounts on luxury or popular gifts. Be wary of these offers. You’ll not only end up paying for items you’ll never receive, but also give away your credit card and personal information. That’s why I recommend purchasing gifts from reputable websites and by name-brand online stores, you’re familiar with, such as Best Buy, Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart. All are names you can trust and that will often help by replacing stolen deliveries.
Two: Use your credit cards.
Purchases made with most major credit cards are protected from loss. So, if you can’t get a refund or replacement from the store, you may be able to get help from your credit card company. For example, American Express Card Members are automatically eligible for Purchase Protection, which can help protect purchases from thieves or damages for up to 120 days from the date of purchase.
Three: Track your packages.
Many shipping companies today offer package tracking alerts by sending you emails or texts so you can follow your packages through each and every step of the delivery process. USPS, for example, offers a service called Informed Delivery where you’ll receive notifications telling you precisely when a package is dropped off at your home. Some online retailers offer similar options. Amazon offers a “Shipment Updates via Text” feature that you can find in your Amazon account settings. These features are great and simple to use.
Four: Install a home security camera and smart lights.
According to a new survey commissioned by Comcast, 74 percent of people thought having a visible home security camera is an effective way to prevent packages from being stolen. However, only 31 percent said they actually have one installed. Home security and automation services, like those from Xfinity Home, offer streaming video cameras with 24/7 continuous recording and smart lights that you can control from your smartphone anywhere, anytime. Security cameras are also great because they can capture footage you can share with law enforcement. Smart lights are also a great deterrent and you can control them easily from your device, turning them on or off, so burglars think someone is home even when no one is. A well-lit home is a safer home.
Five: Keep your front yard and driveway clean and tidy.
When it comes to discouraging thieves, not all security measures have to be high tech. Simply keeping the exterior of your home tidy and clean can make a difference. An overstuffed mailbox, trash cans that are bursting at the seams, newspapers or flyers left in your driveway or on your doorstep, all suggest you’re either not home or haven’t been for days. So make sure to keep your lawn, driveway, and front door well maintained this holiday season.
Six: Make a backup plan to get packages inside quickly.
If you’re expecting a package to arrive and won’t be home to receive it, then ask a neighbor, friend, or family member to get it for you. If you expect to be away or traveling during the holidays ask your neighbor to help you out by picking up your packages and mail. Communicating with neighbors is an effective way to keep your neighborhood safe. Not only can you agree to keep an eye on deliveries at one another’s homes, but you can also keep a lookout for strangers in the neighborhood.
Seven: Report stolen packages to the police.
If the worst happens, and you are a victim of package theft, then report it to the police. Don’t assume you’re the only one in the neighborhood and that it doesn’t matter. Thieves often work in networks and steal from multiple homes. If your package is stolen, first try contacting the shipper and follow up by reporting the stolen package to your local police department. By numerous reports being filed, police can collect more evidence to putting the pieces together and identifying perpetrators. No detail is too small, even footage from cars parked on the street, or a few numbers from a license plate can make or break a case.