Guard Against ‘Porch Pirates’ and ‘Mail Marauders’ With These Tips

Written by Eric Friedman for the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection on . Posted in Advice Columns

These are common scams that happen throughout the year but which escalate during the holiday season. The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) has the following tips and alerts:

Porch Pirates

As consumer habits shift toward e-commerce, deliveries become targeted. USA Today reported that in 2017, 30 percent of Americans experienced package theft. “Porch Pirates” are essentially shoplifters who are moving their theft from the store to your door.

While oftentimes these are shipments you ordered, we also reported how these criminals could be stealing items they ordered in your name (called “hot package” scams). Tracking the package helps you know where your package is so you could retrieve it as soon as it arrives. In fact, these criminals have been known to follow UPS and FedEx trucks and scoop up packages as they are dropped off.

But what about shipments arriving during the work day? The work around is to ship to the office, to a relative you know is home, or ship to in-store pickups (where available). If you’re shopping through Amazon, you could also investigate Amazon Lockers, the Amazon Key Smart Lock Kit, or the Amazon Key In-Car Delivery. Other tips include:

1. Installing a front-door security camera

2. Posting a warning sign

3. Installing a package theft alarm

4. Install a motion activated spotlight

5. Install a lockbox for deliveries

6. Schedule packages to arrive when you are home whenever possible

If you’ve been a victim of a Porch Pirate, file a claim with the merchant and with the shipping vendor. If you have video of the theft, contact your local police.

Mail Marauders

County residents are increasingly reporting mail being stolen out of their mailbox. Mail theft is a felony but that is not stopping these criminals. The reports coming in seem to focus on outgoing mail where the flag is raised. The criminals assume that bills are being paid and steal your mail. They then use the checks in those envelopes to create counterfeit checks on your account and then cash them. However, the thefts can happen for incoming mail too, as these “Mail Marauders” can steal benefit checks, insurance proceeds, etc.

How can you protect your mail? While some suggest not lifting the flag, this can cause confusion as the mail carrier may not know if you have put in new mail or simply forgotten to pick up yesterday’s mail. Speak with your mail carrier about this option before using it.

Other tips include:

1. Using the blue mailboxes around town to deposit mail

2. Go to the post office to drop
off mail

3. Install a security camera

4. Switch to a P.O. Box for your
incoming mail

5. Purchase USPS-approved locking mailboxes from your local hardware store

If you have been a victim of a Mail Marauder, file a report with your local police and the U.S. Postal Inspector.

By Eric Friedman for the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection


Eric Friedman is the executive director of the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection.