CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - A Charlotte mom returned home to find her Target package sitting on her front porch as she expected. What she didn't expect was that it would be empty.
"It was here," said Jessica Vile, pointing to her porch. "It appeared to be completely fine."
Inside the package had been four $30 mantle clips so she could hang her Christmas stockings. But it was clear, upon closer inspection, a Grinch had already opened the box, she said.
"They ripped the cardboard," said Vile, who said the thief "reached in, took whatever they needed to take and tucked it back in."
Vile is now one of more than an estimated 20 million Americans who have had their packages stolen before they could even open them.
Chrlotte Mecklenburg Police could not say how many porch thefts there have been so far this year but say they are not aware of other cases like this where the crooks open the box first.
For Vile, who has a one-year-old, it literally hits too close to home.
"To know these people are on the prowl," she said, "and whether or not you're in there or not, kind of makes you feel like you need to get some kind of security measure."
Earlier this month, surveillance video captured a thief in West Charlotte stealing an unattended package. On Thursday, the Catawba County Sheriff's Office released a photo of a car used to allegedly steal a package from someone's front porch.
CMPD and the Better Business Bureau recommend protecting yourself by:
- If you order from Amazon, you can have packages delivered to local "lockers" at gas stations at the Northlake Mall
- Have packages delivered to your workplace or to a trusted neighbor or friend who is more likely to be home.
- Choose a shipping option that requires you to sign for delivery or track the delivery status online so you can try to be home when the package arrives. Some retailers or shipping companies offer text messages to your cell phone to alert you when items have been delivered.
- Ask the shipper to leave the package on a back porch, inside the porch door or out of sight from the street.
- Ask the shipping company to hold your package for customer pick-up at their local facility.
- If you do not receive your shipment on time, track your package to confirm the delivery.
- If the item was delivered and you did not receive it, report the theft or loss to the original company, the shipping company and to the police.
As for Vile, she got her refund but has a message for her Christmas crook.
"I would say that I'm sorry that you need to be stealing people's packages," said Vile. "And God bless you."