Postal service warns you to watch out for 'porch pirates'

Postal service warns you to watch out for 'porch pirates'
Published: Dec. 15, 2015 at 1:46 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2015 at 2:22 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Postal Service estimates that more than 600 million pieces of mail will be mailed between Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Many will be packages delivered by postal carriers or parcel services.

"If you're expecting a package, don't put a note on your door because that's just a big announcement to every crook in the neighborhood that you're not home and you're expecting something," said Steve Levins, of the State Office of Consumer Protection.

Across the U.S. mainland, the rate of "porch piracy" is rising. U.S. Postal Inspector Jeff Fitch works in San Francisco.  He said the crime is rampant on the mainland and probably is happening in Hawaii.

"We're seeing these people just get out of their cars, comfortably walk up to the porches, take a package from the porches and walk away," he said. "I think it's horrible! I don't think anybody should do that. But I don't think anybody should steal from anybody. I mean, it's Christmas," said Molly Reynolds, as she mailed out her gifts Monday.

Theft of U.S. mail is a federal felony with a penalty of up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

"And we have a standing $10,000 reward for the information leading to the arrest and conviction of those individual or individuals stealing the mail," Fitch said.

The postal service said it's best to be at home to receive your package. But if you can't be there you can take precautions.

"Our customers can request a package release form from the carrier to provide specific instructions of where you would like your packages left," U.S. Postal Service holiday specialist Kelly Coballes said.

"Some credit card companies have protection," Levins said.  "If you pay by credit card and you didn't get the package, you could initiate a charge back through your credit card."

"If somebody's taken something from your porch, they've probably taken from your neighbor's porch as well." Fitch said.

If you believe a package was stolen from your porch or you see thieves stealing from your neighbor, call 9-1-1 and the postal service's 24-hour hotline at 1-877-876-2455.

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