Who pays when packages are stolen?

With the rise in online shopping and home deliveries, package theft has become a growing problem. According to estimates, over 1.7 million packages are stolen or go missing every day in the United States alone. This leaves both retailers and customers frustrated about who is responsible when a delivery goes missing.

What are the most common causes of package theft?

There are a few key reasons that packages go missing or get stolen:

  • Packages left visible and unattended – Thieves often target deliveries left in plain sight on doorsteps or porches.
  • Courier rushes delivery – In a hurry, couriers may leave a package in a risky spot like near the mailbox.
  • No signature required – Valuable packages delivered without needing a signature are prime targets.
  • Apartment buildings – Shared entryways and lack of security make multi-unit buildings easy targets.
  • Holiday seasons – More deliveries means more opportunities for thieves around peak times like Christmas.

While courier companies aim to securely deliver packages, the sheer volume makes it impossible to prevent all theft. Criminals also use clever tricks like following delivery trucks or disguising themselves as workers to intercept parcels.

What legal protections exist for lost or stolen packages?

When a package does go missing, there are a few legal protections in place for consumers:

  • Courier liability – Major carriers like USPS, FedEx and UPS have policies accepting limited liability for lost or damaged goods during transit and delivery.
  • Merchant refund – Under the Mail Order Rule, merchants are obligated to refund customers if goods are not delivered as promised.
  • Homeowner insurance – Packages stolen from outside a home may be covered under a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
  • Retailer cooperation – Responsible retailers will work with customers and shippers to make the situation right if a delivery is reported stolen.

While customers have some safeguards, the protections are limited. For high value items, added shipping insurance may be required.

Who is responsible when a FedEx, UPS or USPS delivery is stolen?

The exact responsibility depends on the carrier and circumstances:

FedEx liability

  • FedEx accepts limited liability for loss, theft or damage when they have possession of a package.
  • Their maximum liability is $100 for shipments without additional declared value.
  • They are not liable for deliveries left at recipient’s premises without a signature.

UPS liability

  • UPS’s liability for packages lost or damaged in transit is limited to $100 without additional declared value and fees.
  • They don’t accept responsibility for deliveries left without a signature if that was allowed by the shipper.

USPS liability

  • USPS is only liable for goods lost or damaged in their possession and limits claims to $100 without extra insurance.
  • They don’t take responsibility for goods after delivery or if left without a signature when not required.

In general, if a courier follows normal procedures and a delivery is stolen after being properly delivered to the correct address, the courier is no longer liable according to their posted terms.

Who pays when Amazon packages are stolen?

When packages shipped by Amazon Logistics or sellers through Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA) are stolen or go missing, here is how liability typically falls:

  • Amazon accepts responsibility for packages in their custody or being handled by their delivery partners up to certain limits.
  • If delivery requires a signature and an Amazon courier releases the package without obtaining one, Amazon will cover the cost of a replacement.
  • If a delivery does not require a signature, Amazon expects the package to be secured by the recipient and is not liable for porch thefts.
  • For high value items, adding delivery insurance through Amazon when shipping can provide protection against theft.
  • Amazon will work with customers and sellers to investigate problems but does not cover stolen FBA packages once marked delivered.

How retailers and delivery firms try to combat package theft

While legal liability is limited, retailers, carriers and customers can take proactive measures to secure deliveries and deter thieves:

  • Obtaining signatures and delivery confirmation whenever possible
  • Taking packages to parcel pickup lockers or collection points
  • Requiring ID verification for valuable or risky deliveries
  • Providing detailed delivery instructions and best dropoff spots
  • Installing security cameras overlooking delivery spots
  • Getting to know local delivery drivers
  • Picking up packages quickly after being delivered
  • Tracking shipments closely online

Retailers are also developing high tech solutions including:

  • GPS tracking devices inside packages
  • Smart locks and secure storage bins for deliveries
  • Sensor alerts when a package is delivered
  • Video doorbells to deter thieves and record activity
  • Package identification codes to track responsibility

With cooperation between couriers, sellers and customers, porch piracy can be significantly reduced.

How can customers protect themselves when packages are stolen?

Customers buying online can take these key steps to avoid issues with stolen packages:

  • Select delivery requiring a signature or ID verification for high value goods.
  • Provide detailed delivery instructions to limit risks, such as indicating a safe dropoff location.
  • Opt to pick up packages from the courier’s holding facility or locker pickup point rather than direct home delivery.
  • Insure valuable items for transit in case of loss, theft or damage.
  • Track packages closely online and be home when scheduled for delivery.
  • Install a security system like video doorbells or security cameras to deter and record theft.
  • Report any stolen packages promptly to the seller and delivery carrier with as many details as possible.
  • Consider any coverage through homeowners insurance or optional protection plans when shopping online.

How does insurance protect customers when packages are stolen?

Insurance from multiple sources can help customers recover the value of stolen packages in many cases:

Delivery carrier insurance

  • Purchasing extra delivery insurance directly through the shipping carrier before sending can cover loss from theft.
  • Insured value and rates vary by carrier, but typically Start around $2 extra to insure for $100 value.
  • Shippers must document the contents and value and file claims promptly after loss.
  • Useful for high value items and when standard carrier liability would be Insufficient.

Homeowners or renters insurance

  • Many home policies have provisions to cover stolen delivery packages as part of personal property coverage.
  • Typically includes limits such as $200-$500 and a deductible applies.
  • Coverage and deductible vary by insurer and policy terms.
  • Useful backup coverage if delivery carrier insurance doesn’t fully cover a loss.

Retailer purchase protection

  • Major credit cards and some retailers offer purchase protection plans on goods bought with their cards or accounts.
  • Plans refund the product cost if it’s damaged, stolen or not received soon after purchase.
  • Read policy details carefully as many exclusions apply and claims must be filed quickly.
  • Helpful coverage but not replacement for delivery insurance from carrier or home insurer.

Review all available insurance options when buying higher value items or gifts online to make sure adequate coverage exists if the delivery is stolen or goes missing.

How can stealing packages be prevented?

A multi-pronged approach is required to cut down on the growing problem of package theft:

  • Greater public awareness and community vigilance to deter thieves and catch those responsible.
  • Expanded delivery tracking and technology options to secure dropoffs.
  • Law enforcement efforts to identify theft hot spots and rings of criminals targeting deliveries.
  • Stiffer penalties when package thieves are caught and prosecuted.
  • Retailers and carriers continuing to develop better protective measures against theft.
  • Customers taking preventative steps when ordering goods for delivery.

With billions of packages now being delivered annually, companies realize the scale of package theft requires bold innovation to drive down risks. Partnerships between couriers, police and neighborhood groups can also help make progress against the problem over time.


Package theft is a nagging issue that causes significant headaches for delivery firms, retailers and online shoppers. Legal liability for stolen goods is often unclear and limited for carriers. While insurance and preventative measures can help, the most effective long term solution is reducing the incidents of theft themselves. This requires sustained engagement between e-commerce companies, law enforcement and the public to protect the security of deliveries.

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