Move over baseball, buying online might just be America’s new favorite pastime. It also spells open season for porch pirates.

Maybe you splurged on that fancy little Italian coffee maker. Or you finally gave in and bought the kids that popular gaming console. Porch pirates are banking on these expensive purchases and are on the prowl.

Being a porch pirate,someone who stakes out homes and neighborhoods looking for packages to steal, is a lucrative enterprise. Last year alone, criminals swiped an estimated $8 billion of packages right off consumers’ porches in hopes of scoring a steal, per

And American online shopping habits aren’t slowing down. Americans spent $1.12 trillion shopping online in 2023, according to Capital One Shopping.

“Porch piracy is a significant problem,” says Ben Stickle, a criminal justice professor at Middle Tennessee State University and a leading expert on the topic.

How big of a problem is it?

There were an estimated 119 million packages stolen in the past year, per

Though porch piracy is a growing problem, Stickle says there is no national data on package theft other than estimates based on victim surveys, like those done by and Many police departments don’t even track package theft in their communities.

“There are several reasons for this including most states don’t have a specific ‘crime’ category for package theft. But, it’s also not reported to the police often,” says Stickle.

Most packages stolen are between $50 to $80 and many homes are often hit more than once.

“Additionally, there are multiple companies that deliver packages and even they may not know when a package is stolen, because victims tend to contact retailers,” says Stickle. “The retailers don’t know the details of the theft and don’t have a way to report data. So, no one really knows.”

Retailers have had to work hard on strategies to deal with the rise in porch piracy, which tends to be difficult because businesses may lose a significant amount of control after a customer makes the purchase, according to Stickle.

“For instance, you may buy a product on a retailer’s website, but the warehouse or fulfillment center that pulls, packs, and ships the product may be owned by someone else,” says Stickle. “Then the delivery service — UPS, FedEx USPS — is yet another company, some of which also subcontract delivery. It’s called a supply chain, because it really is. So, it’s hard for businesses to make informed decisions on how often they are a victim and what is likely to address the crime.”

Leading supply chain visibility platform, project44 found that 21 percent of customer delivery issues were attributed to missing packages, coming in second only to packages with delays. Eric Fullerton, senior director of product marketing at project44 says based on this ongoing trend, he believes in 2024 porch piracy will continue to be a major threat to e-commerce deliveries.

“There's a lot of pressure on consumers to solve for porch piracy, but businesses should be just as concerned about preventing this theft,” Fullerton says. “The more products stolen, the more customer services claims there are to address, more refunds to give out and inventory to be used on replacement products — impacting a business' bottom line.”

Ways companies are combating porch piracy

There are many things that businesses can and are doing to thwart porch pirates.

“The first step in preventing porch piracy starts with providing visibility throughout the supply chain,” Fullerton says. “With real-time updates, businesses can give customers up-to-date estimated time of arrivals (ETAs) so they know exactly when to expect a delivery, minimizing the amount of time packages sit on front porches.”

Text updates on order statuses can be a quick way a business is providing transparent updates on package delivery times, he says.

“In situations where porch pirates are a threat, the real-time nature of these updates is even more important,” Fullerton says. “Delays of  just a few minutes can be the difference between a safely delivered shipment and one that is a threat for piracy.”

Not surprisingly, more than half of all stolen packages were delivered by Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer and marketplace.

“While the vast majority of deliveries make it to customers without issue,” says Alisa Carroll, an Amazon spokesperson, “when something does occur, we work with customers directly to make it right.”

Some of these ways include Amazon’s Map Tracking feature that allows customers to follow real time progress of a delivery driver to the customer’s home and also photo-on-delivery, which gives visual delivery confirmation.

Amazon Prime members can choose a specific day for a weekly delivery of their packages. Customers can also specify in the app where at their residence they would like their package delivered. There’s also Amazon Lockers for customers to pick up their packages at thousands locations across the U.S. .

Like Amazon, many companies such as Walmart and Target have devoted web pages for customers who can’t find their delivered package, with the latter stating it would replace or refund the item.

Wait, AI's involved here, too?

Delivery companies like FedEx and UPS are also trying to quell the threat of porch pirates, with both services allowing customers to control how they receive their packages.

For merchants, UPS is employing AI to lower their risk of shipping to areas that have a history of porch piracy.

“Porch piracy is a growing concern, but UPS Capital has developed a powerful solution,” says Mark Robinson, president of UPS Capital, a financial services division of UPS.

UPS created DeliveryDefense, an AI software to address shipment loss. UPS’s AI and machine learning technology examines data points like location, loss frequency, returns volume and delivery attempts to group them together based on similarities to predict the likelihood of a package reliably getting delivered.

Robinson says DeliveryDefense can help businesses identify and mitigate high-risk deliveries, protect their packages and their bottom line.

“By leveraging vast amounts of data and advanced technology, DeliveryDefense aims to provide businesses with tools to help protect their packages, minimize losses, and maintain customer trust in the evolving e-commerce landscape,” Robinson says.

UPS’ data-driven approach to assessing and mitigating package theft risk, he says, can help businesses reduce losses, improve customer satisfaction and stay competitive in the rapidly growing e-commerce market.

Shipping protection is one strategy many retailers are pursuing, such as through product protection company, Extend. 

CEO and founder, Woodrow Levin, says Extend offers merchants the ability to offer shipping protections as a value-added service “to boost customer loyalty, drive incremental profit and deliver a seamless customer experience.”

Extend currently works with more than 1,200 merchants including Michaels, Sonos, HeyDude, Ann Klein, Dress the Population, Nectar Sleep, Brilliant Earth, Advance Auto Parts, Visionworks, Peloton and more.

“Merchants receive revenue from each shipping protection plan sale. Extend takes on the risk of paying for replacement products and the associated re-shipping costs, and our AI driven fraud monitoring works to eliminate bad actors filing false claims,” Levin says.

 He says Extend’s shipping protection offering also drives up key sales and performance metrics, including a 9 percent higher Average Order Value per customer who adds shipping protection at checkout “meaning they have greater peace of mind when buying online and therefore are buying more.”

Are there any laws on the books?

 Theft of packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Service is a federal crime. Laws for package theft from carriers like FedEx or UPS, however, vary among states.

 Pennsylvania became the ninth state in December 2023 to adopt a law to make porch piracy a felony. The other states where package swiping is a felony are Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, New Jersey and Kentucky. Additional states are considering similar laws.

At the federal level, a bill that would make it a federal crime to steal packages was introduced in Congress in 2022 by U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota. The bill remains pending in Congress.

While the incidence of porch piracy isn’t likely to go away any time soon, businesses and consumers increasingly have avenues to protect themselves.

For online shoppers, requesting signatures for packages, scheduling delivery times for when someone is home and asking a neighbor to bring in any packages can all be helpful.

“Package theft is about opportunity,” says Stickle. “If you can remove or even reduce the opportunity at the home, there will be less theft.”

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