More than 25 million packages are shipped across the country each day by the United States Postal Service alone. This does not take into account the packages handled by private companies like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon’s own fleet of delivery drivers. And with online shopping showing steady growth, the number of packages shipped and delivered is also going up. What’s more, modern shipping companies are capable of getting packages to customers in days rather than weeks.
The challenge? More packages being delivered means more opportunity for would-be criminals — also called “porch pirates” — to steal your packages and leave you wondering where they ended up. In 2020, nearly 25% of Americans reported at least one package theft.
While it’s no fun to have your packages stolen, it’s not all bad news. In some cases, your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance can help you recoup the costs of lost packages. Here’s what that looks like in practice.
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When Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Package Theft?
As noted by the Insurance Information Institute (III), most standard home insurance policies cover theft of your personal property from both inside and outside your home — including packages. However, you should consider the value of the package before filing a claim. Repeated claims can result in a higher policy premium or cancelation of coverage altogether, and you must pay a deductible for each claim too.
If the stolen package was of relatively low value, it may not be worth filing a claim with your renters or home insurance company. But if you had ordered something particularly expensive and valuable, filing a claim may help you recoup some of the losses from the theft.
How Does Theft Coverage Work for Packages?
If your package has been stolen, contact your insurance company to start a claims process. Like other insurance claims, your policy includes a deductible amount you pay before insurance coverage takes over. Policies also contain an upper limit of coverage.
For example, if a package worth $5,000 is stolen and your deductible is $500, you would pay $500 upfront. Your insurer then covers the remaining balance up to your policy maximum. This means if your theft policy maximum is $3,000 and you have paid the $500 deductible, your insurer would cover $2,500. In addition, insurance companies may have set maximums on high-value items such as jewelry and collectibles.
It’s also worth noting that there are two types of theft coverage:
- Actual cash value (ACV): This provides coverage for the amount your package is currently worth based on market value.
- Replacement cash value (RCV): This value covers the cost to replace the item.
For example, suppose you order a rare video game that has an actual value of $50 but a replacement cost of $500 because there are so few copies left. Depending on the type of home insurance coverage you have — ACV or RCV — your out-of-pocket expenses can be different to recoup the loss.
When Is Theft Not Covered?
There are situations where your insurance company may not cover package theft. Depending on your policy documentation, you may have a specified period to report the theft of a package. If you fail to file a claim before this time runs out, your insurance company may not cover the costs. You may also need to provide documentation to your insurance company to help verify the circumstances of the theft and the value of your package. This documentation may include police report numbers, tracking information, and credit card statements, or other indicators of the package value.
Without this information, your insurance provider may not offer full coverage on the value of your item, meaning it may not be worth the cost to pay your deductible and start the claims process.
What Can You Do If Your Package Has Been Stolen?
Before filing a claim with your homeowners or renters insurance, there are several steps you can take to both confirm delivery and determine if someone may have taken your package without permission.
Verify Package Delivery
If possible, verify the package was delivered to your address. If you were provided with a tracking number, see if the shipping service used has an online tracking service to determine where your package ended up. In some cases, delivery deadlines are missed, but package statuses may not be updated right away, leading to a disconnect between when you expected the package to arrive and when it actually shows up.
Amazon offers an easy example. If you log into your Amazon account, you can see the status of your current orders, including shipping details and expected delivery dates. If the date has passed and no package has arrived, check the tracking details to see if there’s a shipping delay.
Ask Your Neighbors
If the information you have suggests the package has been delivered to the right address, but you still don’t have it, start by asking your neighbors if they’ve seen anything. In some cases, good neighbors may bring your packages into their homes to prevent theft. For example, if you’ve been away from home for a few days and your neighbors see a delivery, they might not want to risk it being stolen from your front step or porch.
If your neighbors don’t have your packages, they may have seen someone else leaving with them after delivery or may have seen a vehicle drive away. In this case, your neighbors may be able to provide details about what potential thieves looked like, what they were wearing, and — if you’re lucky — may even have gotten license plate information.
Contact the Seller
If your package isn’t on the doorstep and your neighbors haven’t seen anything, your next step is to contact the seller. While large retail companies like Amazon, Target, or Walmart have robust shipping and tracking systems in place, private sellers may use less well-known options. Get in touch with the seller to confirm your tracking number and find out if the package has been returned to the sender.
Contact the Shipping Service
It’s also worth contacting the shipping service itself to see if they have any details about your package. Depending on the services being used, there may also be insurance on the package that covers some of the total item cost. If you decide to make a claim for your item through the shipping service itself, there are specific processes to follow which differ for each shipper.
What Are Some Other Ways to Protect Your Packages?
Along with homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, there are other ways to protect your packages.
Opt for Signature Delivery
One way to protect your packages from potential theft is opting for signature delivery rather than simply having packages left on your doorstep. While this type of delivery — sometimes called “express,” “expedited,” or “registered” — may be more expensive, it also reduces the risk of stolen packages because a signature is required for delivery. While your package could still be delivered to the wrong house and the wrong person could sign for it, the shipping company would have a record of the delivery to help you track down the package or file an insurance claim.
It’s also worth noting that depending on the type of delivery you purchase, the shipper may be responsible for replacing your package if they deliver it to the wrong address or fail to get a signature.
Install Security or Doorbell Cameras
Another option to reduce the risk of package theft is by installing security or doorbell cameras. These cameras may deter criminals by making it clear that their actions are being captured on video. If you choose to install cameras, it’s a good idea to advertise their presence with signs or stickers so would-be thieves know that your home is actively protected.
Install Lights and Motion Sensors
It’s also possible to deter porch pirates by installing outdoor lights and motion sensors around your property. For package thieves, the goal is to get away with your items undetected. If you have bright lights around your home and set these lights to stay on at night or activate when people approach, it’s easier for you and your neighbors to spot suspicious activity. This makes it riskier for thieves to steal your packages.
Have Packages Delivered Elsewhere
If you’re worried about packages being stolen from outside your home — for example, if package thefts are up in your area or you’re often away for work — you may choose to have them delivered to another location for pickup.
With USPS, you may be able to have packages delivered to your local post office for secure storage and pickup; in this case, you get a small tag on your door or in your mailbox letting you know the package has arrived. For other shipping services such as FedEx, UPS, or Amazon, you may be able to arrange pickup at a designated location.
Opting for an in-person pickup means packages aren’t sitting outside your door, and you have the added safety of identity verification and signature release.
Use Online Tracking Options
If prefer to have packages delivered to your home, consider using online and mobile tracking options offered by major carriers. Using your tracking number, you can opt in to email and text messages about the shipping and delivery status of your package. This provides ongoing updates about where your package is and when it’s scheduled to arrive, in turn letting you make plans to be home to retrieve your package immediately upon delivery.
Solving for Stolen Packages
From the time and effort involved to reorder your items to the worry around the safety and security of your neighborhood, it’s worth making the effort to secure your home with cameras, lights, and motion sensors, or consider opting for signature delivery or in-person pickup.
If packages are stolen, however, you do have options. Your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance lets you make a claim for the value of your package up to the policy maximum, so long as you pay your deductible and make the claim within the specified timeframe. Depending on the value of your package and the breadth of your coverage, making a claim offers one way to offset the stress and cost that comes with stolen packages.