Porch Pirates are Real
When it comes to receiving a much-anticipated package, chances are you are eagerly monitoring its tracking to your doorstep. Then, if your tracking shows your item as “delivered”, but you haven’t received it, you’re going to be frustrated. At first, you may not know if the item is stolen or simply lost. Although it won’t truly help, you may take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. A 2019 report showed that 36% of all consumers had a package lost or stolen – and the average consumer orders 45 packages a year. That’s a lot of lost packages.
Right away, here’s a breakdown of how most people handle this situation:
- 83% of people contact the seller
- 60% contact the carrier (UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc.)
- 48% check with their neighbors
- 13% call the police
You can also take further comfort in the knowledge that, if you report a package as stolen, around 11% of the time the porch pirate is caught. So first, take a deep breath, then proceed below.
It may sound obvious, but first look closely at your tracking number. Packages change hands from one carrier to another all the time, and it is sometimes hard to tell which carrier is tracking the actual delivery. For this reason, it’s best to first identify which type of tracking number you have in order to accurately track the delivery.
How to tell which carrier’s tracking number you actually have:
- UPS – begins with “1Z”.
- FedEx Ground & Express – 12 digits (no letters).
PRO TIP: Your FedEx tracking number is also the 21st through 34th number of the barcode.
- USPS – 22-34 digits (no letters).
- USPS Priority Mail Select –13 characters long, beginning with two letters and ending with “US”.
- UPS Mail Innovations Sequence Number – 18 digits assigned internally by UPS Mail Innovations or UPS Worldship.
- What is UPS Mail Innovations? UPS Mail Innovations is simply a service where the carrier is initially UPS, but then final delivery may be made by the postal service. If you were to track this number on the UPS website, it may only tell you when the item was handed off to USPS. You need to run the tracking number on USPS’s website to see accurate delivery data to the final destination.
- Amazon Logistics – Amazon uses all of the above carriers for delivery, so you may receive one of the previously mentioned tracking numbers. However, they also deliver themselves via Amazon Logistics, whose tracking numbers start with “TBA”.
Once you know which tracking number you have, visit that specific carrier’s website to check delivery status.
When is a Package Considered Lost?
Each carrier handles lost packages differently, but generally speaking, you are advised to wait between 2-7 days after the expected delivery date before taking action for a lost package (this is especially true during global pandemics). Sometimes things just arrive late, and Amazon even states that in rare cases, items can show as delivered up to 48 hours before the item actually arrives.
Here’s a breakdown of how each carrier handles lost packages.
USPS Missing Mail
The USPS says that this is simply “mail that has not been delivered by the expected delivery date.” You first need to wait 7 days past the delivery date before you should take action. Then you can:
- Try and get to the bottom of it yourself at their Missing Mail Page.
- File a Missing Mail search request online here. You’ll need to create an account first, but then you’ll receive periodic updates on the search progress.
- Visit your local Post Office for assistance, where they will help you fill out a paper version of the Missing Mail request.
- Call 1-800-275-8755. You can then ask for the number of your local Consumer Affairs office and they can submit a missing mail request by phone.
Amazon Missing or Stolen Packages
At eCampus.com, we do use Amazon to fulfill some of our orders and yes, even Amazon admits that this sometimes happens. Amazon considers an item “lost” after 48 hours past the expected delivery. After that, they suggest that you take the following steps:
- Check to see if your package was left with a neighbor or receptionist.
- Verify the Shipping Address
- Look for a Sign or Notice of Attempted Delivery
- Look Around the Delivery Location (sometimes it’s just hidden out of view).
- If you’re expecting a box, then check the mail, and vice versa. Some packages travel through multiple carriers.
UPS Missing or Stolen Packages
For deliveries that don’t require a signature, UPS trains their delivery personnel to leave shipments in “a safe place at the drivers discretion”. This could include the front porch, side door, back porch, or garage area. They also state that drivers may leave items “on back porches, bushes, garages, grills, or other places that might protect your package from theft or weather.”
Then, like the others, UPS requests that you wait 24 hours after the expected delivery date and time before taking action. Unlike USPS and Amazon, UPS does not have any online self-service to help locate packages.
UPS does have a process for senders to file a UPS lost package claim, however, this is only if the package was sent via UPS the entire way. If the package changes hands (which is frequently the case) from one carrier to another (such as UPS to USPS) during transit, this option is not available.
FedEx Missing or Stolen Packages
FedEx does not offer guidance on how long to wait before filing a claim, but they do give you a deadline for doing so – which is 90 calendar days from the delivery date on FedEx Ground for non-delivery or misdelivery. Like UPS, FedEx offers an online claims process for lost packages. Luckily, this process is entirely online and looks fairly simple to complete:
- Visit the FedEx lost package page to file a claim.
- Fill out the claim form. (You’ll need your tracking number.)
- Add supporting documentation for the item’s value.
PRO TIP: You don’t need to provide this documentation if the item is under $100 in value.
- Track the status of your claim online here.
Some FedEx customers have reported that it’s faster to do this by phone, by calling 1-800-463-3339. You’ll have to say “representative” a few times, and again, you’ll need your tracking number, but then you can speak to a live person who can open a claim for you.
What Does In-Transit Mean?
In-transit means that the item is on its way to you. This can remain the status until your item is successfully delivered. In rare cases, items can get stuck in transit. An item shouldn’t remain in any one sorting facility for more than 5 business days. If this is the case, you can reach out to the carrier and ask them to contact the sorting facility where the package is stuck so they can try to locate it for you.
What Else Can I Do for Stolen Packages?
If you have already tried everything that we’ve mentioned above, here are a few more – let’s say severe – actions you can take. All of these actions are focused towards “stolen” items, since lost packages will be primarily the concern of the carriers themselves.
- File a complaint with the Postal Inspection Service. By doing this you are essentially reporting a crime. The only difference between the USPIS and the police (they work together jointly) is that this organization deals exclusively with issues of this sort. Here’s what you can report online through the USPIS:
- Mail Fraud
- Identity Theft
- Mail Theft
- Suspicious Mail
- Use Purchase Protection on your Credit Card. If you purchased with a credit card, you may have purchase protections that cover lost or stolen items. However, there’s always the fine print such as:
- May not cover items over $500.
- Claim period is typically 90 days after purchase.
- You’ll need receipts.
- You may need to file a police report also.
Here are a few credit card companies that offer some version of purchase protection:
- Visa Infinite
- American Express
Tips for Preventing Package Theft
If you live in an area with high theft, there are several steps you can take to make it harder for porch pirates to steal your packages.
- You can sign up to have items held at the carrier facility rather than have them delivered to your home.
- You can ask carriers to not leave items at the door unless the person is home.
- You can sign up for alerts with the carriers to know exactly when items are going to be delivered.
- Buy a Security System. This will help in a number of ways:
- Help deter, identify & catch theft.
- Secure your home from burglars.
- Lower homeowners insurance costs.
As you can see, you have lots of options. Hopefully this will help ease the pain of having a lost or stolen package and give you a clear path forward. Many of these methods may not work for your situation, but it only takes one of these solutions to help you get back either your property or your money.
Did any of these solutions work for you? Did we miss one? If so, let us know!
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