“Why me?” is likely exclaimed by many Americans who are a victim of package theft. It is a frustrating experience to have a parcel picked from the porch, leading to a series of steps to replace it or get the money back. And, a whole lot of questions like:
Ultimately, the question is: Who is responsible for package theft and what is being done about it? Although there isn’t a clear answer, taking a closer look at some of the key aspects might help.
The key parties involved in getting a package to a consumer are the Seller, the Delivery Company, and the Buyer. Unfortunately, if the package cannot be retrieved, there are no clear laws that put the onus on any one party.
Although UPS has a great way to track packages almost up to the minute, they do not take responsibility once it is delivered. It recommends that the consumer contact the sender of the package if it cannot be located or file a claim. Their site states:
If you still cannot locate the package, contact the sender of the package to initiate a trace process with UPS. The sender will then follow up with you on the progress of your shipment.
According to an article by wusa9.com, UPS clearly states it is not financially responsible:
"If a package has been successfully delivered, UPS would not be responsible for the reimbursement," Dawn Wotapka, a UPS spokesperson, said. "We suggest the consumer file a police report that can be submitted to the retailer for potential reimbursement."
Here’s what Michael Hotovy, a spokesperson for USPS had to say in the same article:
"If loss, damage or missing contents occur to any parcel after delivery by the Postal Service, indemnity will not be paid. This includes insured mail — including Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail, Registered Mail, COD — and Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express."
As a retailer, a middleman, and a delivery service, Amazon is in a slightly different category. It has more involved agreements with the original seller to cover items through its A-Z Guarantee. In fact, according to valuepenguin.com, Amazon covers most stolen packages under their guarantee.
This being said, Amazon certainly puts a lot of the onus on the buyer and seller. It’s recommendation is to contact the seller if it is a third party--which is most of the sellers on Amazon.
Take as a whole, the Buyer is largely put in the position to resolve the issue by reaching out to the Seller or making a claim with the Delivery Company. The Buyer is also responsible for reporting the crime to the local police.
So the trade-off question is: Is it worth it? This will likely depend on how expensive the item is and how many forms and follow-ups are involved.
The rise in porch piracy has triggered a legal movement to enact tougher laws and punishments for these offenses. In 2019, the state legislation in Texas increased the potential jail time for convicted package thieves to 10 years and raised the fines to the $4,000 to $10,000 range.
In December of the same year, a law in Michigan went into effect that has three steps. A first offense is still a misdemeanor, a repeat offense can lead to felony charges and a five year prison sentence, and it makes it a five-year felony to steal mail if the offending party has intent to commit fraud.
In 2020, during the pandemic when home deliveries and therefore porch piracy were both on the rise, Oklahoma passed HB 2777, a bill meant to combat package theft. While a first offense is still a misdemeanor under the Act, multiple offenders could see either or both two to five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
As Tulsa Police Department spokeswoman Officer Jeanne Pierce told local TV station KTUL. “It’s really good that we have that felony aspect of the law because we are seeing a lot of the same people committing this crime over and over again. So if we can take several package thefts and charge them, we can turn that into a felony and they can get a more severe punishment for the crimes they’re committing.”
Following in the footsteps of these states are California, Utah, New Jersey and Georgia, which all have had legislation introduced that would strengthen package theft laws in variety of ways. This includes making porch piracy a distinct crime (separate from petty theft), requiring jail time, allowing prosecutors to charge porch pirates with felonies or higher degree crimes, and increasing the fines for such offenses to $15,000.
Although delivery companies are not taking legal responsibility, it certainly is a “black eye” for the industry if they can’t ensure packages will be received. Much of their response is to help with preventative measures, such as:
Many buyers who see the inconvenience and financial loss of package theft are beginning to take preventative measures. In this report by ValuePenguin and lendingtree, it shows that consumers are doing several things to combat porch piracy, including:
Although home security measures like doorbell cameras can help and consumers certainly see that as a preventative measure, they do not actually stop porch pirates from stealing. As a result, an emerging trend is to buy a lockable package box. It’s kind of like a mailbox for your delivered goods. You’ll see a handful of these in the market, but the clear market leader in terms of quality and ease-of-use is Adoorn. Adoorn’s secure mail & package boxes prevent theft and keep your deliveries safe from porch pirates, while being easily accessed by your delivery drivers.