Here's what to do if Amazon packages go missing

You have 3 layers of protection from porch pirates nabbing boxes

Fred O. Williams
Senior Reporter
Expert on consumer credit laws and regulations.

The Fine Print with Fred Williams

Fred O. Williams is senior reporter for CreditCards.com. A business journalist since 1987, his work has appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, the Buffalo News and USA Today.

After Amazon Prime Day comes Christmas in July for package thieves.

Shoppers who took advantage of the online retailer’s discount holiday July 16 and 17 should brush up on the coverage available for package theft, unless you already have robust theft prevention in place, such as a locker, smart doorbell, porch-cam – or you direct shipments to your office instead of your home.

“There’s a lot of (prevention) things that can be done, but they take a little more time and effort on the part of the consumer,” said Brian C. Gibbs, CEO of Refund Retriever, a shipping analytics company in Houston.

Thirty-one percent of consumers said they had experienced theft of a package in a 2017 survey of 1,000 consumers by Shorr Packaging Corp. But when asked what companies should do about it, less than 1 percent of respondents said signature delivery should be required.

“They want to just order it and have it arrive at the door,” Gibbs said.

Merchants will ship most items without a signature requirement for delivery, shipping experts said. Signature verification costs the merchant extra and risks alienating customers who miss the delivery. 

“If you’re not home when Amazon stops by, you might be out of luck,” said Michael Grabham, founder of Package Guard, which makes a delivery protection device.

When a package is dropped off at your address, theft protections fall into three general layers of coverage: from the seller and shipper, from your credit card, and lastly from home or renter insurance.

Some credit cards have rolled back their protections against theft of merchandise. But before making a claim to the card’s theft protection benefit or launching a chargeback, buyers missing a package should first seek help from the shipper and the seller. Credit card protections should be a fallback if other steps fail, shipping experts say.

3 ways to protect yourself from package theft

1. Keep tabs on deliveries

Sign up for “Shipment Updates via Text” under your Amazon account settings. That should alert you when the package is shipped, out for delivery and delivered. However, these updates don’t apply to shipments from sellers other than Amazon, the company says.

2. Document the transaction

In case you need to file a claim later, document the transaction and the shipment. You may need copies of the order, the receipt and delivery confirmation. The carrier’s completion of delivery may be required to show that the item wasn’t lost in transit. Print or take screen shots, or make sure you receive an email copy.

3. Use a credit card with “purchase protection” or “purchase security” benefits.

Check card benefits or call customer service to see if the card you use for Amazon or other online purchases comes with this coverage.

The Chase Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card provides purchase protection up to $500 per claim (and $50,000 per credit card account). Items lost in shipment before delivery are not eligible for coverage, a Chase representative said, so be ready to document the shipment was completed to your address. The Amazon Store Card, issued by Synchrony Bank, lacks purchase protection.

Your coverage when packages go missing

Here’s an overview of the coverage available for stolen packages.

Layer 1: Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee

What it is: Purchases made through Amazon’s website are covered to $2,500 if not delivered to the buyer (or are damaged or defective). Unless there is signature confirmation, “undelivered” items include those recorded as delivered by the carrier but not received by you – that is, dropped off. The guarantee is void if you start a chargeback with your credit card.

How to use it: Check with the carrier and neighbors first, shipping experts said, and don’t file a chargeback with your credit card issuer right away. The carrier will run a trace to get more information from the delivery person, such as where the package was left. If that’s unsuccessful, use your Amazon account to contact the seller. Notify the seller of the delivery problem and seek a refund or replacement. If that’s unsuccessful, begin a claim under the A-to-Z Guarantee via the order page.

Layer 2: Credit card purchase protection benefits

Use this as a backup if Amazon denies your claim.

The A-to-Z guarantee may be denied if the seller proves delivery was made, or if you fail to respond to a request for more information – or if you file a chargeback through your credit card. Some card issuers – notably Discover – have moved away from the purchase protection benefit, but many mainstream cards still carry it.

For example, the Chase Amazon Rewards card purchase protection requires the claim to filed within 120 days. You’ll need your receipt and documentation that you have reported the theft. You may also need to file a claim with your home or renter insurance, as the card benefit kicks in after other insurance is exhausted. However, this requirement may be waived if you show that the insurance policy’s deductible is larger than the loss value. Be aware that some items are ineligible for price protection, such as antiques, used articles, medical equipment, perishables and consumables such as cosmetics and perfume.

Last resort: insurance

Renters’ or homeowners’ insurance policies usually provide coverage for theft. However, the deductibles under these policies are often several hundred dollars higher than typical online purchases, shipping experts say. Designed to replace items stolen in break-ins and burglaries, the coverage usually requires that a police report be filed. On the plus side, it will be easy to document the value of the loss with your receipt.

Grabham started his Package Guard company after a delivery of coats for the homeless was taken from his porch. The seller – Walmart in his case – replaced the items, but not in time for the event his charity in Seattle was sponsoring.

Preventing theft “is a hard problem,” he said, “unless you’re in a building with a doorman.” Having items shipped to the workplace can be a solution, he said. But as a bus commuter to his office downtown, Grabham said he knows this is unwieldy for users of public transit.

Gibbs of Refund Retriever has a doorbell with motion sensors that takes a picture of activity on his porch and sends it to his phone. But he says simple steps – such as asking neighbors to take in packages left in plain sight – can help a lot. Consumers who rely entirely on theft coverage after-the-fact will make themselves a target.

 “Thieves are going to prey on those people who think, ‘Ah, it’ll be OK,’” he said.


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Updated: 09-25-2018