Porch pirates are exploiting the surge in online shopping and profiting off of stolen packages from unattended front door or apartment lobby areas.
The collective damage caused by these thieves amounts to $5.4 billion in package theft over the past year in the U.S., according to a new online survey of 1,790 U.S. adults from Finder.com.
That works out to an average value of $156.82 worth of stolen items over the past year for nearly 14% of Americans — 35.5 million — who claim they’ve been victimized by the practice. A handful of victims have also committed the same crime, the study found.
“I have heard accounts of people even stealing items like diapers and infant formula — some caught on camera by home surveillance cameras,” said Cheryl Wagemann, Finder's shopping editor, told Yahoo Money. “I have also personally had packages gone missing after they were reported as delivered.”
For porch pirates, the pickings may be riper this year as people plan to purchase more than two-thirds of their holiday purchases online this year — up 11% from last year, according to a recent survey from Tophatter, an auction online marketplace.
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“Since COVID, the growth of online sales has been just phenomenal,” said Sree Menon, chief operating officer at Tophatter. “The fact that people have experienced shopping online and they find how easy it is and there are many formats that suit different people, and what their needs are. That will continue to be a very big part of overall sales, even in a post-COVID environment.”
The portrait of a porch pirate victim
Porch pirates seem to gain the greatest loot off of well-heeled millennials who represent 41% of all victims of package theft, the survey data found. As a generation, they have lost the most money to theft — $2.7 billion — or roughly half of the total amount stolen. Gen Xers lost $1.6 billion to porch pirates, while baby boomers lost $700 million.
Men reported they are victimized more often than women and the average price point of their stolen items — $190.47 — is higher when compared with that of women’s stolen goods at $111.72.
How much do people lose?
Porch pirates seem to strike homes or neighborhoods of greater means, too.
Those who reported an annual income of $80,000 to $99,999 suffered the highest value loss at an average of $266.18, followed closely by those earning $100,000 to $119,999 at an average of $261.35.
Those with the smallest annual incomes of $20,000 to $39,999 had the lowest average value of stolen packages over the past year at $99.86, followed closely by those earning $40,000 to $59,999 at $114.92.
Who are the porch pirates?
About 7.6 million adults admitted to stealing a package, the data showed. Of those, men were more likely than women to admit their offenses and they primarily belonged to Gen X, followed by millennials and Gen Zers.
There’s also a small overlap of people who identify as both victims and perpetrators. About 1 in 9 victims — or 3.3 million adults — also admitted to stealing packages themselves.