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Packages, packages, packages.

Thoughtful gifts for loved ones, children, relatives and friends ready to be wrapped and ribboned and put under the tree.

With less than a week to go before Christmas it’s a busy time for Santa and all his helper elves and with the explosion of online shopping it’s becoming harder to track the deliveries coming to our front porches and doorsteps.

Some may be misdelivered to the wrong address, but unfortunately, many will be undelivered by the thieving Grinches out there that troll neighborhoods looking for unattended packages sitting on the doorstep and appropriating them to put under their own trees.

They’re called porch pirates and stoop surfers, but they’re really just thieves and they can wreck your holiday if a special gift goes missing without time to get a replacement before Christmas Day.

Online sales in the U.S. are expected to rise almost 15 percent this year, according to recent news reports. UPS estimates it will handle 800 million parcels between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the U.S. Postal Service puts its delivery estimate at 900 million packages.

Given those outsized numbers, it is probably not surprising that porch piracy would also be on the rise. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but an Associated Press report last week noted a study commissioned by comparison-shopping service InsuranceQuotes.com which surveyed 1,000 people on porch thefts and calculated that 26 million Americans have had a holiday package stolen. That would translate to nearly one in 12 Americans.

With theft numbers like that, it’s also not surprising that e-retailers are fighting back with security measures. Amazon has partnered with police in Jersey City, N.J., by installing doorbell cameras at the homes of volunteering officers and planting GPS tracking devices in dummy boxes at their homes.

When they debuted the sting operation earlier this month, it took 3 minutes before a package was nabbed. So was the thief. Police said the theft happened so quickly they first thought it was a mistake.

There are other ways to protect yourself from porch piracy. Amazon has a system that allows homeowners to get notified when a delivery is made — and sends the recipient a message with a photo of the package on the doorstep. If you have an Echo Dot, that notification will also pop up there with a yellow ring alerting you to a delivery.

Amazon also has a Key service program which, for a fee, allows homeowners to have a cloud-connected lock and camera installed at the front door, which allows an Amazon delivery person to unlock the door and put the package inside.

UPS and FedEx allow customers to sign up for alerts on deliveries, and you can also have packages delivered to a company store — and in some areas, FedEx has partnered with grocery stores and drugstores to serve as safe pickup spots. If you are away from home for a period of time, the Postal Service has long offered a hold-mail program which allows you to collect packages and mail when you return.

Other strategies to safeguard your deliveries include requiring a signature for the delivery or having packages delivered to a workplace.

Porch piracy is an unfortunate reality of the rise in home deliveries, but you can take steps to make sure that prized package ends up under your tree and not someone else’s and keep your holiday merry and bright.

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