(WHTM) — The holidays are here, and deliveries are flying fast and furious as everyone works to get their shopping done. Unfortunately, a problem continues to grow: porch pirates.

The holiday Grinches are out stealing deliveries. In fact, 260 million packages have gone missing from American porches this year alone. That’s 50 million more than last year.

Safety expert Rebecca Edwards says suburban areas are big targets.

“You’ve got rows of houses with porches visible and easy access from the street. If it looks like it’s an empty street during the day where people are away at work and school, that can be very fertile hunting ground for a porch pirate,” Edwards said.

There are benefits to living in a more urban area. “City dwellers…might have more ready access to things like package lockers like Amazon locker depots. They might live in buildings with mailrooms or doormen where it’s less likely that a porch pirate will come in and out unnoticed. And there are just more eyes everywhere when you’re in the middle of a city,” Edwards said.

Still, it’s a crime that can hit anyone no matter where they live, and it has only grown since the pandemic with the boom of home deliveries and online shopping.

“There’s more packages showing up on porches, which means there’s more opportunities,” Edwards said.

Shoppers can take steps to make their homes less appealing targets.

Some giveaways can include “cars that don’t move, if you’re leaving lights and electronics on and off at the same time every day — like that porch light when you’re on vacation is now a signal that you’re probably on vacation because it never goes off,” Edwards described.

So what should you do to avoid falling victim to a porch pirate? Edwards has these tips:

  • Sign up for delivery alerts so you know how far away your package is and when it’s at your home.
  • Require signature at delivery so your package won’t be left unattended on the porch.
  • Make sure your porch area is well-lit.
  • Security cameras may help, as well.

“I do think [security cameras have] become less of a deterrent because they are so ubiquitous. People notice them and they sort of put up their hood, pull down their cap, throw on big sunglasses, and they do it anyway. Which is why I like innovative companies that are coming up with more proactive measures, so it’s something that catches them off guard,” Edwards said.

Shoppers may want to invest in a camera that has other features like loud sounds, prerecorded messages, and strobe lights.

“What we’ve seen in clip after clip where these cameras are in play is the package thief gets startled, they look around, and they run off without the packages,” Edwards said.

Porch pirates cost Americans $19 billion last year. Edwards says it’s unlikely that porch pirates will be caught or that victims will get their taken items back. If you are a victim, your best chance to get the items that were taken is through the retailer where you bought them.