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WDUV Top Local Stories presented by: ABC Action News

Five tips to keep your holiday packages safe from porch pirates

Online shopping has made life easier for a lot of us and is especially handy during the holidays, but it’s also created more opportunities for thieves to prey on parcels left on our doorsteps.

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So beware the so-called porch pirates. They count on our being lax, but a little preparation can help thwart their plans and leave them empty-handed, said Gary Miliefsky, CEO of SnoopWall , a company that specializes in cybersecurity.

“A more sophisticated porch pirate might send you an SMS message or email with malware,” Miliefsky said. “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 geolocating feature on your phone, he said. That would tell them when you are away from home, providing the final link in their well-laid plan.

Police tell us thieves mark their calendars with notes that say such things as  "Package theft Wednesday."

“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 said.

There are, however, ways around even cybercriminals. Miliefsky offers these tips for outwitting porch pirates and keeping packages safe:

• Get permission to ship all your packages to work. That way, they aren’t left unguarded at your doorstep for hours while anyone walking by could snatch them. If this arrangement works out, be sure to tell all your friends and family members to ship packages to your work address.

• Ask a friend or neighbor to receive your packages for you. You might not be home on workdays, 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 safekeeping.

• 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.

• Disable geolocation on your smartphone so that thieves – or other hackers, for that matter – can’t track your location. There’s no need to make it easier for them.

• 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 officials, or at least provide you with video that might help identify the thieves.

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