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How to proceed when porch pirates pinch your packages

Consumers can take steps to help prevent losing online purchases left at the door to porch pirates during the Christmas season.
December 20, 2020 - 3:30 PM

’Tis the season for parcel deliveries to residential addresses, especially so this year as many consumers shift to online purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That also means an increasing risk for parcel theft when left unattended on front porches and steps for owners to return home

While it appears there haven't been many reports of package theft in Kamloops and the Okanagan so far this Christmas season, it has happened in other B.C communities. An RCMP release from Nanaimo reported two instances of theft from residences by ‘porch pirates’ earlier this week. Suspects in both cases were identified through home security footage and neighbourhood tips to police.

More recently, White Rock RCMP arrested a 59-year-old woman who is alleged to have stolen numerous packages from various residences in the city. 

We wanted to know who is responsible for replacing goods when stolen from a doorstep and posed those questions to Amazon, Canada Post and Purolator. After more than a week, none of them replied and there are no policies available to the public. 

Consumer Protection B.C. spokesperson Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith says consumers making online purchases usually enter into what is known as a 'distance sales' contract. The law applies to non-delivery of goods ordered online but is an 'entirely separate issue from when a package is stolen.'

In these transactions, consumers are within their rights to cancel the order if goods aren’t delivered within 30 days of the estimated delivery date. They can also cancel if they weren’t provided with a delivery date and the order doesn’t arrive within 30 days of the purchase.

If a consumer alleges that an online order did not arrive, the burden of proof rests on the business to prove to the consumer that the order was delivered, she says.

So if there’s an issue with delivery, the business must be able to prove the package was delivered and that they provided reasonable notice of delivery so the consumer has an opportunity to receive the package. If they cannot prove that and the package is not there, the consumer would be able to use the rights they have under the law to cancel their contract and request a refund, she said in an email.

If the business can prove that they did everything they were supposed to and the consumer doesn’t have the package, that’s a different situation and the consumer could try contacting the police if they suspect theft, she said.

If you are the victim of package theft, what can you do? White Rock police suggest such things as:

  • requesting signature confirmation of the package
  • ask for the package to be left in plain view
  • if you're planning to be home for the delivery but can't be, call the delivery service and make other arrangements
  • ask a neighbour to retrieve the package
  • invest in a doorbell camera
  • call police if you see suspicious activity

Amazon Canada offers the following advice to find a missing package that the delivery company says was delivered:

  • verify the shipping address of your order
  • look for a notice of attempted delivery in your door or on your porch
  • look around your entrance for possible delivery locations for your package
  • see if someone else accepted the delivery, be that another household occupant or a neighbour
  • wait 36 hours, as in some cases a delivery may be marked as completed up to 36 hours prior to the package’s arrival

Chabeaux-Smith says if a customer doesn't get satisfaction after following the steps above, they should come to Consumer Protection B.C. for assistance.

Safewise.com also offers some tips about how to help prevent porch pirates from being successful in making off with an unattended gift.

Safewise.com suggests:

  •  filing a police report. They might not be able to do much, but could launch an investigation should other neighbourhood residents report similar thefts. The file should also be useful should an insurance claim need to be made over the missing goods.
  •  reach out to the seller and let them know your package wasn’t delivered. Some upstanding companies will send a replacement right away.
  •  keep your order confirmation number and any other details that will help track your order
  •  report the loss to the sender ( Canada Post, Amazon, Purolator, Fed Ex, etc.)

Some suggestions to prevent package theft include:

  • arranging for a neighbour to watch for and retrieve the package
  • installing an outdoor security camera or doorbell camera
  • installing a motion activated light on the porch

If you're a talented engineer, you might come up with your own creative plans but if that fails, a dog is always helpful. Have a look at the videos below. 

Family dog scares porch pirate away from residence in Ogden, Utah.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.

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