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Protecting Yourself and Your Packages from "Porch Pirates"

November 13, 2020

"Porch pirates" are unfortunately more common than ever, taking advantage of the fact that online shopping is at an all-time high. Even though it's a federal crime, it's often so tempting and easy to snatch a package that some petty criminals can't resist it. More than 25 million persons have their packages stolen right from their doorsteps by porch pirates each year—don't be one of them.

Remember that many thieves are opportunists. They're on the hunt for easy targets. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to prevent package theft is not to allow packages to sit outside for too long.

Check the services offered by the delivery companies. UPS offers a service that allows you to pick the date and time a package is delivered, so you can select a time when you'll be home (an additional fee applies). Packages can also be held at UPS Stores and other locations. FedEx allows you to have a package held at a local FedEx office or a Walgreens store or other locations. The U.S. Postal Service can also hold your packages or redirect delivery. All these companies will also notify you when a package has been delivered if you've created an account with them.

  • Have your packages delivered elsewhere, such as Caltech's Shipping and Receiving address, your place of employment, an Amazon delivery site, P.O. box, or FedEx/UPS location. It's well worth the minor inconvenience to ensure your packages are safe.
  • Request that deliveries require a signature. With carriers like FedEx or UPS, you can often set this preference using your customer account, even if the package is already on its way. In other cases, such as USPS deliveries, you will need to arrange for a signature ahead of time.
  • Subscribe to delivery alerts. All of the major delivery services offer some kind of notification service for package updates. Opt in to receive the most up-to-date information available.
  • Keep the area around your front porch clear and visible. This is a burglary prevention tip often shared by police officers. Thieves want to be able to get to and from your doorstep undetected. When they're likely to be seen, they're more likely to choose another target.
  • Request nondescript packaging. When possible, ask senders not to announce where the package is coming from, especially if it's from a high-end store. Sometimes this is possible through requesting a gift shipping option. Check the box labeled "Gift" to ensure your package comes in a plain box.


If you see suspicious activity please contact Caltech Security at 626-395-5000 (x5000) immediately. If you live off campus notify your local police department.

Do not confront anyone on campus. Your safety is our primary concern. Items can be replaced. DO NOT attempt to contact or confront anyone you suspect is engaging in suspicious or criminal activity.