Postal officials offer tips to fight ‘porch pirates’

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The holiday season brings great joy to many Americans, but with the growth in cybershopping, authorities say they are also seeing a spike in “porch pirates”—holiday grinches that steal packages after they have been delivered.

Or, in the case of an elderly Buffalo homeowner, a thief stole two packages she had set out on her porch for the mail carrier to pick up.

“Deborah”, as we will call the Buffalo grandmother—to protect her privacy—said she left the packages out to return them to the retailers to exchange. But before the carrier got there, her packages were gone, and Deborah saw the man she believes snatched those boxes from her porch.

“I see this man that has a scarf around the bottom of his face. Something told me go to the door, you know how you have an instinct? I went to the door, I opened it, and my packages were gone.”

Deborah also captured images of the theft on a surveillance camera, and reported the incident to police, but the theft of mail is a federal offense, subject to investigation by U.S. postal inspectors.

Raymond Williams, the team leader for Buffalo’s office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said consumers can remove the temptation that attracts “porch pirates”, “One of the things that we recommend is, don’t leave mail in your mailbox or on your porch for an extended period of time. Get it as quickly as possible.”

Williams said postal customers can call ahead to have packages picked up, and in this day and age of massive shopping on the Internet, customers can track their packages, and even have them delivered to a safe location.

“In some cases, if someone is at work and their employer allows, they could have the package sent to their employer’s address. So there are a number of different tactics, so to speak, that people can use to try to avoid this kind of activity.”

In most cases of porch poaching, thieves will follow a postal service delivery truck, and grab parcels off front porches as soon as the mail carrier drives away.

If you spot suspicious activity like that, Williams asked that you report it to postal inspectors at 877-876-2455. You can also find the U.S. Postal Service’s complete list of tips to avoid being a mail theft victim here.

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