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Porch pirates playing Grinch on your holidays? What to do when online presents are stolen.

Unattended packages are ripe targets for porch pirates this holiday season
Unattended packages are ripe targets for porch pirates this holiday seasonDavid L Ryan/The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

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Was that last-minute gift you ordered online to complete your holiday shopping hijacked by “porch pirates?”

Local police report almost daily of thefts of packages left on front porches and unattended lobbies of apartment and condo buildings. What to do, then, if that present you ordered from Amazon never makes it inside your home?

The first option is to contact Amazon customer service and ask for a replacement, said Edgar Dworsky, founder of the website Consumer World.

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While Amazon’s terms say an item’s “risk of loss and title” passes on to shoppers once the company transfers the package to a delivery service, Amazon may not be very Draconian about the policy, Dworsky said.

“They’ve tried to cover themselves legally, but my guess is they’ll use that probably sparingly so they don’t alienate customers,” he said.

In a brief comment, Amazon spokesman Jim Billimoria said only: “We work directly with our customers to resolve any issues they may have.” But Amazon’s forums and other online message boards feature shoppers who say they had an easy time getting the
e-retailer to replace a lost package.

Amazon’s website says shoppers who do not receive a package, even if it has been marked as delivered, should contact the company if, after 36 hours, the package still hasn’t arrived.

If Amazon declined to replace a package, shoppers should instead ask their credit card company to cancel the charge, Dworsky said. They could also ask for a refund from the delivery company. Amazon uses a variety of delivery services, including its own logistics company, the US Postal Service, and UPS; the carrier is listed on the site’s order-tracking feature.

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Chris Goetcheus, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation, said consumers should alert police to porch theft, which some shoppers catch through video surveillance.

“There could be a likelihood that the incident is not random and is happening at other doors in the neighborhood or town,” Goetcheus said in an
e-mail.

Some thieves have been apprehended around Boston this holiday season.

On Wednesday night, Somerville officials said multiple people were arrested near Davis Square for stealing several packages. Boston Police reported in November that a man who was “responsible for a number of thefts” had been arrested. In Cambridge, where police have received 49 reports of porch theft since Sept. 1, there have been “several arrests,” according to spokesman Jeremy Warnick.

Boston Police’s blog suggested consumers take preventative measures to prevent porch theft, such as having packages delivered to work, or to a friend or relative’s home.

They could also call the carrier and request the package be held until a day the shopper is at home, or to be left in a back or side yard, the police post said. However, Amazon’s site says it is “unable to accommodate” delivery instructions in its shipping address fields, unlike some retailers.

A missing or stolen gift presents another challenge to shoppers: letting the gift’s recipient know the package didn’t arrive in time for the holiday. To that, Dworsky had another suggestion.

“A little note, it’s a little IOU,” he said. “If you want to spoil the surprise, take a little screenshot.”


Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.

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