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8 ways to outsmart package-thieving porch pirates over the holidays

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This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

An estimated 1 in 5 Americans reported being victims of package theft over the summer — reaching near “peak levels” — according to a survey from Security.org, a security research site. And porch pirates typically get even more brazen around the holidays.

Worried about your Black Friday purchases or Grandma’s gingerbread cookie care box arriving safely? Here’s how to protect your holiday packages.

Track your packages

Most delivery services provide tracking information so you can easily follow along with order updates. The U.S. Postal Service, FedEx
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  and others also allow you to sign up for shipment alerts through a combination of email, text, phone call or app notifications. Once you get an estimated delivery day or time, arrange for someone to be home during that window.

Leave special delivery instructions

Try as you might, perfectly timing your package’s arrival isn’t always possible. If you suspect nobody will be around to accept the order, leave specific instructions for the delivery driver. For example, you can require a signature for delivery or request the package be left at a side door or with a neighbor.

You’ll likely need an account with the carrier and the order tracking number to set preferences. Some services charge for certain special requests, so read the details carefully before choosing an alternative.

Install a security camera

A front-door or doorbell camera can scare off would-be thieves, but it’s not a guarantee. In the event someone swipes your package, having one can still help you out, though. You can submit footage as evidence when you file a claim or police report.

Plus, some cameras offer protection plans. The Kangaroo front door security kit comes with one year of the Kangaroo Complete plan, which reimburses up to $150 for stolen packages twice a year.

Allow Amazon to leave packages inside your garage or gate

Key by Amazon
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 , a smart home system, lets you get packages dropped off inside your garage, gate, car or home (in-home and in-car deliveries have been paused due to COVID-19). With this method, drivers get secure, one-time access to unlock the door and leave your package.

But Key works only with Amazon orders, and there are some requirements: You must have a Prime membership, live in an eligible area, purchase the necessary equipment or own a compatible car.

Send packages to a facility, locker or store

Picking up an order somewhere other than your residence isn’t the most convenient option, but it could be the safest. Consider making a post office, self-service locker or retail location the shipping destination.

You can reroute FedEx packages to a nearby Walgreens
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  or send Amazon orders to a secure locker. UPS
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  has Access Point pickup locations at its stores as well as Michaels, CVS Pharmacy
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  and Advance Auto Parts.

Ordering from a retailer with brick-and-mortar locations? Explore curbside or in-store pickup options.

If something goes wrong, contact the retailer or delivery service

If your package is missing, reach out to the merchant first, then the carrier responsible for delivery (if necessary). They may issue a replacement or refund your money, depending on the circumstances and their order policies.

Check your credit card details and insurance policy

If the retailer or delivery company won’t cover you, your existing credit card or insurance provider might. Many credit cards include purchase protection, a benefit that covers stolen items up to a certain amount. Purchase protection usually applies only for a specific period of time following a purchase.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies often include protection for stolen personal property, too. Check yours to find out if you’re covered. Insurance providers, like credit card companies, typically require you to file a claim and police report to take advantage. However, most deductibles are set at $500 or more, so you’ll probably end up paying more out of pocket to file a claim than your item is worth.

File a police report

Filing a police report can still be a good idea even if you don’t submit a claim through your credit card or insurance company. The information you provide can help law enforcement track down thieves and possibly reunite you with your stolen goods.

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‘I could live on my Social Security and still save money’: This 66-year-old left Chicago for ‘calming’ Costa Rica — where he now plans to live indefinitely

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Editor’s note: This article was first published in September 2019.

A school break changed 66-year-old Martin Farber’s life forever.

In 2007, his daughter — who at the time was attending Illinois State University — decided she wanted to spend a college holiday volunteering in Costa Rica and staying with a local family, he explains. She came home raving about the experience, so, in 2008, Farber — who at the time was living in Evanston, Ill., just outside Chicago, and selling cars — took his first trip there.

“It was a big surprise to me — bumpy roads, dogs barking in the streets,” he says. “I wasn’t enamored at first.”

But as his daughter began traveling there more and eventually moved there for a year, he took additional trips to Costa Rica. It quickly grew on him — in particular, the people. “The Costa Rican people are warm, open and friendly. I felt less invisible in a strange country in a strange town where I didn’t speak the language than I did in Evanston.”

And the more time he spent there, the more it impacted him: “On one of my trips there, I thought: My daughter’s life makes more sense than mine,” he says. “There was nothing wrong with my life, but I felt that my life was out of context with who I’d become. … I would have bills and make money to pay them, but that had ceased to be satisfying,” he recalls. “I knew I needed to change my life — there was no more joy in what I was doing.”

What’s more, when he’d return from his Costa Rica trips, people noticed. “I would come back, and my friends and therapist would say: You seem better after you go,” he says with a laugh.

A view from the hot springs near Martin Farber’s home in Costa Rica.


Martin Farber

So in 2014, he packed up and moved to Orosi — a picturesque, lush small town with waterfalls and hot springs a little over an hour’s drive from San Jose — promising himself he’d stay for two years. It’s been five, and he now plans to stay in Costa Rica indefinitely. (Though Farber notes that, to him, “it’s not a retirement; it’s a chance to lead a new and different life.”)

Here’s what his life is like, from costs to health care to residency to everyday life:

The cost: While many expats spend way more living in Costa Rica, Farber says: “I could live on my Social Security and still save money.” He says “a person can live on $1,200 per month, two people on $2,000.” The key, he says, is to live more like he does and as the Costa Ricans do — in a modest home, eating local food and purchasing local goods.

Indeed, Farber himself spends just $300 a month for rent (he rents a home from a friend who moved recently and gave him a good deal), roughly $225 a month on groceries and just $50 a month total on water and electricity (the temperate climate in Orosi means you rarely need heat or air conditioning). The veteran Volkswagen
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+0.96%

 
VLKAF,
+0.98%

salesman saves money by not owning a car (those over 65 ride municipal buses for free), which can be a significant expense in Costa Rica; for his cellphone, “I pay as I go … roughly $10 may last me a couple weeks or more,” he says, adding that “many people handle there their cellphones this way. You can get them recharged anywhere.”

His major expense is travel: He goes back to the U.S. to visit his mother in Florida several times a year and lately has spent part of the summer in Chicago helping out a friend with a dealership there. He also spends a good amount of money on health care. He says that while flights can be had for as little as $350 roundtrip during offseasons, the cost can be much higher the rest of the year.

In the saddle.


Martin Farber

Health care: Farber, who has permanent resident status in Costa Rica, says he pays about $90 per month to participate in the country’s health-care system — adding that the health care he’s received has been very good. (A 2018 study of health-care quality and access in more than 190 nations ranked Costa Rica No. 62.)

When he developed a detached retina, though, he paid for the procedure out of pocket so that he didn’t have to wait for the required surgery, he says — adding that the entire procedure cost him about $5,000. “I would have had to have waited four days,” he says, if he had not paid to expedite matters. “That might have been fine, but it might not.” And he adds that the quality of care depends on where you get it in the country.

Lifestyle: Though Farber says that he “moved here with no goals and no agenda,” he’s found plenty to do. “I take Spanish lessons two days a week for two hours a day. It’s been great. I never thought I would acquire a usable language in my 60s,” he says. He also rides his bike all around the area, does some writing and belongs to a community group that undertakes projects to improve the area.

And he often simply takes in nature, which he says has been an essential part of why he feels calmer and more relaxed in Costa Rica than in the U.S. “I live at 3,000 feet but in a valley surrounded by coffee fields and lime trees and water. At night, if I open the windows, I can hear the river rushing by,” he says. “It is very calming … hundreds of trees everywhere … you know the Earth is alive.”

The historic Iglesia de San José de Orosi.


iStock

Cons: “I don’t want to overglorify. It’s not without its problems,” Farber says of Costa Rica. “There are social problems and downsides.” He notes that crime and petty theft can be a problem (“I am cautious,” he says of his approach) and seem to have increased since he moved there, and adds that he misses out on some cultural things because of where he lives. And, he says with a laugh, “I can’t order Thai food at 9 at night.” But, he adds: “These are trade-offs — in the afternoon, I get to walk in the coffee fields and see flocks of parrots.”

Residency: To qualify for Costa Rica’s pensionado visa, expats must prove that they have a pension of at least $1,000 coming in each month. (Here are the details of that program.) Once you have lived in Costa Rica for three years, you can apply for permanent residency. Farber used a lawyer to help him figure out the ins and outs of residency options; his entire path to permanent residency took about a year, he says.

The bottom line: “After five years I am still amazed and surprised that I made the decision to lead a life I never thought I would,” he says. And while he may not stay in Orosi forever — “the town doesn’t have an ambulance, [and] I don’t know what it will be like to be 80 there,” he says — he does plan to stay in Costa Rica in no small part because of the people and sense of community. “I have the feeling that life is good here,” he says. “It’s hard sometimes, but we are all in it together.”



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Mutual Funds Weekly: These money and investing tips can help you read the market’s signs and stay on your path

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