With more people shopping online for the holidays and carriers leaving deliveries by front doors, package theft is a serious problem.

Nearly 20 percent of homeowners surveyed this fall by the California-based home-security company Ring reported having a package stolen last year, with an average loss of $140. And as you might expect, the most likely time for theft to occur is during the holiday season, the survey found.

But there are steps you can take to protect your holiday package deliveries from so-called porch pirates. 

Let the courier drop off packages inside your home. In select areas, you can do this by signing up for Amazon Key, a service available to Amazon Prime customers. It allows you to let delivery drivers from Amazon enter your home when you're not there. It requires the purchase of a kit, currently $200 on Amazon, that includes a smart lock and an indoor security camera, so you can keep an eye on your home and record activity.

The service is new, and there's always a concern about security flaws. In November, for example, security researchers discovered a vulnerability in the Amazon Key service that could allow couriers or other outsiders unauthorized access to the homes of the service’s subscribers. Amazon says it has fixed that flaw.

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Use security cameras. You can install them inside and outside your home, allowing you to watch your property from anywhere and record any activity. And if the cameras are visible, they might deter thieves from stealing your deliveries in the first place. Such services are available from a number of companies, including ADT, Xfinity Home, Ring Doorbell, and Nest. But check out any company before buying its products or services.

Have packages delivered to a lockbox. Instead of leaving packages at your front door, you can have them dropped off at a lockbox, which makes them harder to steal. Amazon offers lockboxes in some of its Whole Foods Market stores and in other locations. Other companies, such as Landport, offer lockboxes that can be installed on your front porch. You give the lockbox access code to to the delivery company before a package arrives. After it's placed inside, the box locks. You can change the code after the delivery. Lockboxes from Landport cost $500 to $800 depending on the size. 

Give instructions to the package delivery service. Some services let you indicate where to leave your package if you’re not home. UPS, for example, offers an online tool, My Choice, as does FedEx, which offers Delivery Manager. With both of them you can instruct drivers to leave a package at a back door, with a building superintendent, or with neighbors.

More on Holiday Packages

You also can have deliveries diverted to another address—maybe your workplace—or placed on hold if you’re on vacation. UPS provides a list of local partner merchants, such as UPS stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores, that have agreed to accept deliveries on a recipient’s behalf.

Another option is to have items sent to a retailer’s walk-in store for pickup, which may help you save on shipping fees. 

Many of these services are free, but some come with a fee. For example, UPS charges $5 if you make an online request to redirect a package to a different location.

Sign up for alerts. Some carriers offer text or email alerts so that you know when a delivery will be made. If you aren’t home, you might be able to get back in time so that your package isn’t left outside for too long.

Require a signature for delivery. And last, ask retailers to require a signature to make a delivery so that packages aren’t simply dropped off outside a house.  

If Your Package Is Stolen

FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service say they don’t cover thefts of delivered shipments.

“If UPS has completed the delivery, which includes driver-released deliveries to residences, UPS is not automatically responsible to reimburse the cost of the shipment,” said a UPS spokesman, Matthew O’Connor.

If you find that your package is missing, there are some steps you should take:

Verify that the package was delivered. Call the shipping company to make sure the item was left at your house or apartment and wasn't intercepted by someone, such as a well-meaning neighbor or building superintendent. If the package or its contents were stolen or otherwise lost while in the shipping company's possession, you may be entitled to compensation. Most packages sent by UPS, for instance, are covered for up to $100 in case of loss or damage.

Call the police. It’s a good idea to do this quickly. You'll probably need a police report if you’re making a claim with a retailer, shipper, credit card company, or insurance company.

Contact the retailer. Retailers have different policies on how to handle theft. Some of them, such as Target, have fine-print clauses saying that the risk of loss passes to the buyer when the purchase is delivered to the shipping company. Still, a Target spokesman, Eddie Baeb, encourages customers to call if a package is lost or stolen. “We handle such situations on a case-by-case basis and try to come up with a solution for each guest,” he says.

Contact the shipping company. Shippers often require the sender, not the recipient, to initiate a claim. If the retailer won’t cooperate, contact the shipper as soon as possible. You have a limited number of days to file a claim.

Check your credit card benefits. Many credit cards have purchase protection that covers lost or stolen items. If your purchase was made with a credit card, make a claim with the issuer, advises Daniel Blinn, managing attorney with the Consumer Law Group in Rocky Hill, Conn. If that doesn’t work, Blinn advises requesting a chargeback from your credit card company.

Check your insurance. As a last resort, you may be able to collect from your homeowners or renters insurance. But those policies usually have deductibles of $500 to $1,000 or more, so depending on the value of the contents in the package, your insurance may not be helpful.