Be The Gray Man - 6 Ways to Prevent Porch Piracy
Posted July 30, 2018 by Matt Morelli
Package theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the US. As eCommerce continues its meteoric growth, and more people are choosing to shop online rather than in-store, the door is wide open for petty criminals to have a field day through your neighborhood.
The Gray Man Theory is an old spy concept that takes into account the tactics, techniques, and procedures of reducing an adversary’s awareness of your presence and actions. In other words, it’s about blending in and not sticking out. It’s about not becoming a target. We came up with this list to help both the buyer and the seller ensure a smooth transaction, and make sure the parcel makes it into the buyer’s hands.
Here are some things that buyers and shippers can do to decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim of porch piracy:
Discreet Packaging (Shipper)
No matter what you’re selling, there is no need to advertise the contents on the package they’re being sent in. The mail-order sex toy industry likely pioneered discreet packaging, and they’ve got a point. If your company is John’s Amazingly Expensive Wines, and you’re shipping your amazingly expensive wine in a box that looks like a bank vault full of money — you’re doing it wrong…you’re no longer the Gray Man, and people will notice your shipments.
Additionally, discreet packaging may be a requirement if you want to insure your packages. Insurers prefer that your packages receive the least amount of attention from Point A to Point B and beyond. Even labeling the package as insured on the outside raises the probability of loss or damage by a degree.
Require a Signature (Shipper / Buyer)
When you select a shipping method that includes a requirement for a signature, the carrier will not leave the package unless someone is home to accept it. You can then go to the carriers closest hub and retrieve the package yourself, avoiding the possibility of it sitting on the porch.
The caveat to a signature requirement is that anyone can sign for it. Having previously worked for a company that shipped 150 or so packages per day, not a day went by that we did not have clients contacting us asking where their package was only to be told that so-and-so signed for it…and they have no clue who that person is. Requiring a signature raises the level of security, but don’t rely solely on this method.
Security Camera (Buyer)
The jury is still out on whether or not a security camera or a Ring Doorbell, for example, prevents porch piracy. It certainly doesn’t stop all of it, which is why we see so many videos of porch pirates in action. However, it’s an added measure of security that is likely worthwhile. If a package is stolen, in the very least you will have video evidence to supply to your local police. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be the next person to capture a porch pirate receiving instant karma.
Ship to Work (Buyer)
It should go without saying that if your place of business will allow you to have your personal package deliveries arrive when you are there; this is far and away the best method of fighting porch piracy. If there are no packages being delivered to your porch, there’s nothing for porch pirates to steal.
Designated Package Drop-off Point (Buyer)
If you cannot have your packages delivered to your workplace, you may still be able to notify the shipping carrier of a certain place on your property you would like the packages to be delivered. Ideally, your packages should not be visible from the street. Random people passing by should not be aware that you have a new Xbox sitting on your front porch.
If your backyard is accessible to a shipping carrier, ask them to leave your packages on the other side of the gate. If your front porch is your only option, set a row of potted plants or shrubs a foot or so off of your home, creating a void space where packages can be placed, thereby blocking the casual passerby from seeing them sitting there.
A porch pirate doesn’t have time to snoop around and be suspicious. The overwhelming majority of porch piracy takes place during daylight hours when people are out and about or at work. Their only defense is speed. If they can see your package from the street, they can jump out of their car, run up and grab it, and be back in their car in a matter of seconds. If they cannot see your package from the street, chances are they will drive right by and target someone else.
Deploying simple covert tactics will save you money and headaches.
Be Neighborly (Buyer)
Most of us have access to real time shipping information. We now know when packages will arrive down to the hour in some instances. If you know that a neighbor with whom you are friendly is going to be home when your package arrives, ask them if they wouldn’t mind grabbing it for you. When you receive your delivery alert, shoot them a quick text so they can run over and get it for you.
Whatever you do, be mindful of the threat of porch piracy. Be aware of crime in your neighborhood, and network with your neighbors to establish vigilance. If you see something, call the police and report it. Don’t try to stop it, just get a description of the suspect and the vehicle if possible, and let the police know.