‘Tis the season for online shopping, and you know what that means: many opportunities for porch pirates to swipe your packages. Here are some of the ways you can use technology to fight back.
“There are almost 2 million packages a day being swiped from porches across America,” explained Rebecca Edwards, editor at the home security site SafeWise.com. She says wireless accessories like video doorbells have made a big difference.
“They make your life more convenient and they make it safer,” said Edwards.
The easier to install, the better. A company named Kangaroo makes a $20 “peel and stick” doorbell camera that installs in seconds. It runs a year on AA batteries. The big thing to know: it doesn’t actually capture video, but a series of photographs, then stitches them together for sort of a flip-book effect.
“I like video doorbells that have two way talk, because if you can say, ‘hey, get off my doorstep,” said Edwards.
Soon, they may do this for you. Smart home company Vivint is working on a feature that automatically makes a distracting sound when a “lurker” is detected.
“It goes whoohoo, and they take off,” said Edwards, who got an early look at the feature, which is coming soon.
Another way to put these pirates in their place: take advantage of notifications so you can remove packages from your doorstep as soon as they’re delivered. You can configure these in the Amazon app, many times they’ll even include a picture of where they placed your package.
Ring has a new $30 device called the Mailbox Sensor you place it inside your mailbox. It has a motion detector built-in so it can tell you when your mail is delivered or disturbed.
“It makes any mailbox smart. It gives you information that you didn’t have before that allows you to get your mail sooner, save trips and have security that your mail is not being accessed by someone who should not access it,” said David Levine, President of Ring Smart Lighting via a Skype interview.
It can also trigger a video recording on an associated Ring device and turn on lights. You can even configure it to have Alexa say a message – I programmed the sample unit Ring sent to announce “You’ve got mail!” via an Echo Dot.
Pro tip: you can have Alexa say any phrase you want but it can’t include punctuation, so I programmed in “yoove got mail” and it works like a charm.
After having this installed for just a few days, it seems like such a no brainer addition to the a smart home setup. You do need a Ring Bridge to make the Mailbox Sensor work, but once you do Ring tells me the distance between the bridge and the sensor can be “hundreds” of feet, so it should work even with a mailbox down a long driveway.
Tracking your packages is another smart way to keep tabs on them.
An app called Route scans your email or links to your Amazon account so you can see the status of all of your deliveries on one page.
A similar app called Shop also aggregates tracking information, but they both work the same way. To get the maximum value out of these apps, you’ll have to hand over access to your email account so it can scan order confirmations for tracking numbers. You’ll have to decide if the benefits outweigh the potential privacy concerns.
Of course, you can always get a bigger mailbox. That way, once delivery is inside, it’s out of sight and harder to swipe.
One final option: have packages delivered to a secure location for pickup. Major retailers often have in-store lockers or offer free pickup. But that somewhat defeats the convenience of shopping from home.