Long gone are the days when the only place to grab a gift was at a crowded retail store. But the growth of online shopping has created a new holiday problem: theft.
"Porch pirates" are those who steal packages right off of someone's front doorstep. Police spokeswoman Angela Sands, from Lincoln, Nebraska, says these types of thieves have been gaining prominence in the era of cyber shopping. Two men had been arrested with more than 30 stolen packages in their car at the beginning of the gift-giving season.
"There's more packages for them to grab," Sands told The New York Times.
In early December, the Sheriff's Office of Washington County, Oregon, planted a box filled with expensive electronics and a tracking device on a volunteer's doorstep to catch a porch pirate in the act. A 27-year-old man took the package just after 2 a.m and then microwaved the tracking device at a home two blocks away. He was charged with theft and tampering of evidence.
The Oregon man is by no means the only one and he could potentially have stolen more packages had he not been caught.
UPS will deliver 750 million packages during the 2017 holiday season. That's a 500 million increase from 2012.
There are ways to minimize your risk of porch theft. The most important factor in protecting your packages is making sure they are not left outside unattended.
Try to schedule a delivery window for your package for a time when you'll be home, WGRZ recommends. It notes that it can be more expensive to arrange drop-off for a specific time or date, so timing your purchase of the item and tracking your shipment is a must.
For those who are unsure whether they will be home at the time of delivery, requesting a signature from any of the major carriers -- FedEx, UPS or the United States Postal Service -- will prompt the delivery service to take your package back to the nearest shipping center for pickup if you or someone you know is not there to sign.
You can also request that your packages be delivered straight to the shipping center and take them home yourself. Similar to this idea is directing your packages to a self-service locker, such as Amazon Locker, which are available in different areas throughout the country.
Amazon also offers in-home delivery via Amazon Key, a smart lock system that permits package deliverers to leave your parcels inside your home. Cybersecurity experts uncovered a flaw in the service that could lead to thieves entering Amazon Key users' homes, NBC's Today reports.
The shipping and online retail giant told NBC that the flaw posed little risk to customers, stating the issue was not with the system but with a customer's Wi-Fi service.