Siobhan Provolt was at home with her young children one recent afternoon when her 3-year-old told her some boys were at the front door.
Provolt looked out an upstairs window and saw one young man coming toward her Coeur d’Alene house and another walking away with packages that had been delivered and left on her porch.
“By the time I was running outside one kid was jumping in the back of the truck and they just pulled away,” she said.
The thieves carted off the majority of the Christmas gifts Provolt had ordered from Amazon.com on Black Friday. Gone were the presents for her five children and some for her sister and brother-in-law – about $1,500 worth of merchandise, rising to the level of grand theft.
Her car was in the driveway and the porch light was on.
“They had to have known I was home,” Provolt said. “I feel violated, and I feel vulnerable because I am home with small children during the day.”
Such brazen daytime thefts are one of the ways criminals target shoppers during the holidays. Thieves also look for gifts left inside cars, in homes under well-lit trees or in garages and storage sheds, police said.
The Coeur d’Alene Police Department has not seen a spike in parcel theft so far this year, Sgt. Christie Wood said.
“It’ll probably kick up a bit here now that the holiday’s approaching. People will start getting their packages in the mail, so the expectation is there,” Wood said.
In previous years police have learned of thieves who follow delivery trucks looking for opportunities to grab packages.
“We train our couriers and our drivers to be security conscious, look around at their surroundings, see if people are following them or around the vehicle when they get out,” FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler said.
Delivery services also advise customers to arrange for a signature for deliveries or choose an alternate shipping address if they are worried about packages left on their doorstep.
“It can happen year-round. It’s one thing that customers need to be alert for,” Fiedler said. “Consumers have to think about package security when they click ‘ship.’ ”
Through the free FedEx Delivery Manager service, residents can customize their delivery options for items they order as well as unexpected shipments. The company will send an email or text message that a package is on its way.
“That way they can make arrangements to stop that delivery and hold at our station, or you can have it rerouted to a FedEx office location, if you want to pick it up,” Fiedler said.
People can change the delivery time or have the packages delivered to their workplace or left with a family member or trusted neighbor who will be home.
UPS customers can sign up for a similar free service, called UPS My Choice, to notify them when packages will be delivered.
In addition, “They can tell our driver where they would like packages left – for example, in the shed in the backyard or behind the garage,” UPS spokesman Justin Luther said. “Our drivers can enter that information into their hand-held computers for future deliveries.”
The U.S. Postal Service also allows customers to manage their package deliveries through a free “My USPS.com” account.
Provolt said she did most of her Christmas shopping online the day after Thanksgiving.
“This year I just wanted to get it done and over with, because I’ve been kind of ill,” she said.
It all arrived last Wednesday. She was home during the delivery but did not hear a knock or doorbell.
The two suspects – she figures they were between 19 and 24 years old – bolted as soon as she emerged from the house.
“Oh yeah, they saw me,” she said.
Provolt gave Coeur d’Alene police a description of the truck – she didn’t get the license plate – and an itemized list of what had been stolen. She’s not optimistic her gifts will be recovered, however.
Once packages have been delivered, merchandise becomes the property of the recipient, and the recipient is responsible for any loss.
The experience has her rethinking deliveries, but she doesn’t plan to back off from online shopping.
“It’s become so easy,” she said. “So I don’t have to go into the stores, and I find exactly what I’m looking for and not have to drag all my kids to the store.”
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