Online shopping has made life easier for consumers – and is especially handy during the holidays – but it’s also created more opportunities for “porch pirates,” the thieves who prey on those parcels left on our doorsteps.
Many porch pirates are low tech, simply cruising neighborhoods where they know deliveries are taking place and grabbing the unattended packages.
But porch pirates who also happen to be cyber criminals can use your own technology against you, says Gary Miliefsky, CEO of SnoopWall (www.snoopwall.com), a company that specializes in cyber security.
“A more sophisticated porch pirate might send you an SMS message or email with malware,” Miliefsky says.
“That would let them gain access to your computer or smartphone, and they could install a RAT (Remote Access Trojan). Then they can eavesdrop on your orders and deliveries.”
They also might be able to locate you through the geo-locating feature on your phone, he says. That would tell them when you are away from home, the final link in their well-laid plan.
“If they know you aren’t home and that a package is scheduled for delivery, it’s going to be easy for them to steal it,” Miliefsky says.
Miliefsky offers these tips for outwitting porch pirates and keeping those packages safe:
1. Get permission to ship all your packages to work. That way they aren’t left unguarded at your doorstep for hours where anyone walking by could snatch them. If this arrangement works out, be sure to tell all your friends and family also to ship packages to your work address.
2. Ask a friend or neighbor to receive your packages for you. You might not be home on work days, but plenty of people are. Trusted friends who are retired or who work at home might be happy to let you have packages delivered to them for safe keeping.
3. If a neighbor can’t receive your packages and you can’t get them at work, another option is available. Miliefsky suggests trying Doorman, a service that lets you arrange for a package to be held at a warehouse until you arrive home. Then you can arrange delivery for evening hours that better suit you. More on Doorman is available at www.doorman.co.
4. Disable geo-location on your smartphone so that porch pirates – or other hackers for that matter – can’t track your location. No need to make it easier on them.
5. Set up a live recording video camera aimed at your porch. That could allow you to spot a theft as it happens and alert law enforcement, or at least provide you with video later that might help identify the porch pirates.
“Porch pirates count on you being lax with your defenses,” Miliefsky says. “But with a little preparation, you can thwart their plans and leave them empty handed.”