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Who pays for package theft?

Package theft, also known as porch piracy, has become a growing problem as more people rely on delivery services for online purchases. So who is ultimately responsible when a package gets stolen from someone’s front porch? Let’s take a look at some quick answers to key questions about who bears the costs when packages go missing.

What is the scale of package theft in the US?

According to a report from SafeWise, nearly 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing every day in the United States. This adds up to more than 600 million packages stolen annually, with a total value of stolen goods exceeding $19.5 billion per year. The problem has steadily grown over the past few years as online shopping and package deliveries have increased. Porch pirates often follow delivery trucks and target homes after packages have been dropped off.

Who is legally responsible for a stolen package?

The legal responsibility for a stolen package generally falls on the retailer or sender. When you place an order with a company, their responsibility is to ensure the product gets delivered safely to you. If a package gets stolen before you receive it, the retailer is usually required to provide a replacement or refund under its delivery guarantee policies. The delivery service may also be liable if they failed to follow procedures that led to the theft.

What are the responsibilities of delivery services?

Delivery companies like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon have some responsibility in ensuring packages reach their final destination. Their liability will depend on the shipping terms and conditions between the retailer/sender and the delivery service. Most offer package tracking so recipients can see when a delivery is made and file claims over missing items. Delivery drivers are expected to leave packages in a secure location like a porch or doorstep. But if a delivery person is negligent (e.g. openly leaving packages in view of the street) it could make the delivery service liable.

What steps do retailers take to replace stolen packages?

Most major retailers have policies in place around lost or stolen packages to maintain customer satisfaction:

  • Requesting proof of delivery failure from the shipping provider
  • Filing claims with delivery companies over missing packages
  • Resending or replacing items that went missing
  • Refunding customers immediately and dealing with the delivery service directly

Retailers will typically resend or refund orders that get stolen. The scale of package theft has led retailers to strengthen delivery guarantees and make the replacement process simple for customers.

When are customers liable for stolen packages?

In most cases, the customer who originally ordered the package is not legally responsible when a package gets stolen. The sender remains liable until the intended recipient receives the item. Exceptions could occur if:

  • The customer provided incorrect address information leading to the package being delivered improperly
  • The customer failed to report a stolen package in a timely manner
  • The customer refused a required signature on delivery for a high-value item

Barring these situations, customers can expect sellers and shippers to replace items that are stolen after delivery without any expense to the buyer.

What legal recourse do victims of package theft have?

A resident who has a package stolen can report the incident to local law enforcement to file a police report. If the thief’s identity is unknown, there may be little police can do beyond documenting the incident. Having a police report on file could help when working with retailers and shippers to replace the item.

If the porch pirate is caught in the act or identified, they can be charged with theft or larceny. In most states, stealing property worth less than $500 is petty theft, punishable as a misdemeanor with fines and jail time up to a year. Stealing packages valued higher than that threshold often constitutes grand larceny, a more serious felony charge.

What prevention measures can consumers take against package theft?

To proactively prevent package theft:

  • Use shipping tracking and delivery alerts to watch for approaching deliveries
  • Provide delivery instructions for packages to be left in a concealed area
  • Install a lockable mailbox or delivery box
  • Set up video surveillance with a video doorbell or security camera
  • Request signature confirmation for delivery
  • Have packages shipped to workplace or a neighbor/friend who is home
  • Utilize Amazon Locker, UPS Access Points or in-store pick up options

What are delivery companies and retailers doing to combat package theft?

Some steps delivery firms and retailers are taking to reduce stolen packages include:

  • Offering real-time delivery tracking with notifications
  • Using drivers who are employees rather than contractors for accountability
  • Requiring signature or ID verification for high value packages
  • Allowing recipients to reroute packages or require signatures
  • Using video to record deliveries to help verify claims
  • Providing detailed delivery instructions to drivers

Retailers are also working with law enforcement to track down and prosecute serial package thieves and even create “bait packages” with GPS trackers.

Who foots the bill for all these stolen packages?

The costs of stolen packages add up for both retailers and delivery firms. When a package is stolen:

  • The retailer loses the value of merchandise and shipping expenses
  • They also incur customer service costs for claims
  • Delivery companies lose the shipping revenues and pay damages
  • Insurance companies may reimburse some losses

While most retailers simply absorb these costs as a cost of business, losses from theft do lead to higher prices get passed down to consumers overall.

How much does package theft increase costs for the average consumer?

Item Cost
Estimated value of packages stolen annually $19.5 billion
Estimated shipping costs for stolen packages $2.5 billion
Estimated customer service costs for claims $750 million
Total Annual Costs $22.75 billion
Spread across 125 million U.S. households $182 per household

While the costs from package theft are absorbed across retailers, delivery companies, and insurers, analysis shows it increases costs for the average household by $182 per year as those expenses filter down to consumers.

What criminal penalties apply to package thieves?

Most states classify package theft under larceny or theft laws, with penalties depending on the value of the stolen items:

Value of Stolen Packages Potential Criminal Charge Potential Penalties*
Under $500 Petty Theft (Misdemeanor) Fines up to $2,500 and jail up to 1 year
$500 – $1,000 Grand Theft (Felony) Fines up to $10,000 and prison 1-3 years
Over $1,000 Grand Larceny (Felony) Prison up to 10 years

* Penalties vary by state and prior criminal record

In addition to fines and imprisonment, a convicted package thief may face a criminal record impacting employment and housing, as well as civil demands to repay victims.

What about using civil lawsuits against package thieves?

Beyond criminal charges, victims can file civil lawsuits against perpetrators to claim monetary damages. The burden of proof is lower than a criminal case, and judges can order repayment for the value stolen. However, the victim would need to identify the thief and it’s often not worth pursuing in small claims court if the value was low. Civil action can be more viable in cases of repeated, high-value package theft with substantial damages.

Could package insurance protect retailers and consumers against theft?

Various insurance products are emerging to help cover costs from package theft and provide peace of mind:

  • Retailers can purchase package insurance to be compensated for merchandise losses and shipping costs when items go missing
  • Homeowners insurance sometimes includes coverage for stolen packages, but often with low limits
  • Consumers can buy package-specific insurance or service plans for high value items

However, insurers look closely at anti-theft measures taken before paying claims. Deductibles also apply. More widespread use of GPS tracking could help insurers recover costs and identify serial offenders for prosecution.


Package theft is a growing concern as e-commerce deliveries rise. When a package gets stolen, the legal and financial responsibility ultimately falls on the retailer. Retailers work to quickly replace or refund stolen items to maintain customer satisfaction. They, along with delivery firms, take preventative steps to curb theft and prosecute offenders. While customers rarely incur costs for one-off stolen packages, the collective losses contribute to higher prices for consumers across the board. Ongoing innovation and collaboration amongst stakeholders provides the best chance to combat this issue going forward.