How to Deal With Stolen Mail Packages

Legal tips to fight back against Minnesota porch pirates

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Last updated on January 12, 2023

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With the rise in online shopping—and thus package deliveries—there has been a rise in package theft from people’s front porches. In 2016 alone, there were 25.9 million packages reported as delivered and stolen. So, legally speaking, what are the rights of a customer who is receiving a package from a delivery company? Whose responsibility is it to ensure full delivery, and who pays for a stolen package and missing mail?

What Is the Law?

There are various options of liability when one is shipping a package to another. Often, it’s up to the seller or retailer to ensure that you receive your package. Thus, anything that happens in transit is the responsibility of the seller; they are responsible if the package is lost or damaged during transit, and usually must replace it or give a reimbursement. This shipment arrangement is called “Freight on Board” (FOB). Sometimes, it is the responsibility of the seller to place the goods in the hands of a third party shipper or delivery service such as the United States Postal Service (USPS) or FedEx. In this scenario, the carrier or shipping company assumes risk until the package is delivered. Other times, still, the buyer carries the risk of loss from the moment the item is purchased, and is responsible for their own shipping. What type of contract you have entered into will inevitably be in your “terms and conditions” agreement. It is safe to assume that most contracts will be FOBs.

When Is a Package Considered Delivered?

So, when does the risk of loss of a package actually transfer to the buyer? If a delivery contract doesn’t require that a buyer sign for the package, then it is deemed to have been delivered when placed near the front door. If the delivery contract requires that someone sign for the package, however, delivery is not transferred from the seller to the buyer until the hand-to-hand transfer occurs. If you can, take the time to read some of the conditions of the contract before making your purchase online. Knowing when a delivered good becomes your responsibility is the key to preventing a loss.

What About Shipping Insurance?

Insurance is often offered by carriers to the sellers, and buyers can often chose to purchase insurance or not while ordering their package. No matter if the insurance originated from the carrier or seller, it often is the carrier who will insure the monetary amount of the package if there is an issue during delivery.

What if My Package Goes Missing?

If a package is stolen off of your porch, there are a number of steps you can take:
  • First, contact the carrier to be certain the package was delivered in the manner agreed upon. They may reimburse you if you purchased insurance.
  • Second, contact the seller to see if they will replace the item. Generally speaking, Amazon replaces stolen items very quickly, and other sellers may be similarly accommodating.
  • If necessary, file a police report. In Minnesota, a buyer must be able to prove that the loss of the package was not their fault in order to be reimbursed. Filing a report will not only help your claim, but it may help keep a thief from striking again.

What Else Can I Do?

Many homeowners use automated doorbells and secuirty systems that include a camera system, which monitors any movements on your porch. Some use combination-enabled lock boxes, or have packages delivered to their workplaces or backdoors. If you are the victim of a porch pirate, and neither the carrier nor seller is willing to reimburse you, the services of a reputable and experienced civil litigation attorney may be your best call. For more information on this area of law, see our overview of consumer law.

What do I do next?

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