Latest reports show package thefts rose by 87 percent last month and more than 260 million packages were lost to theft at a cost of $19.5bn to the consumer. According to research, North Dakota, Alaska and Vermont were the states most likely to have experienced the most parcel theft.

The January sales are in full swing, with consumers hoping to grab a great bargain. Nobody should have to worry about the safety of their deliveries, not least of all during a difficult financial climate where it may not be easy for families to replace stolen items.

Here are my top tips to avoiding parcel theft and missing out on the great deals you’ve found online.

  1. Prime location

If you don’t work from home, and you know parcels may be left, unattended outside, consider having your packages delivered to a place that is less vulnerable to theft. This could be your workplace or perhaps even the home of a trusted friend or family member.

Other alternative options for a secure location include using a PO Box, lockbox or mail holding service.

  1. Seal the deal

If you are a sender, you can pay a little extra to ensure peace of mind. Most couriers offer a range of services, which include special delivery and same day couriers. These offer signature on delivery and guaranteed parcel arrival times.

Some couriers also offer tracked options, which allow you to track your parcel to its delivery point, with regular updates via SMS or email.

  1. Check your couriers

Use a parcel delivery service that offers added security, like allowing you to specify a secure location for your package to be left.

It’s also worth checking which couriers a brand uses and their recent reviews. This can help give you an idea of any possible issues there might be further down the line.

For example, research shows couriers like FedEx receive the highest number of Twitter complaints linked to ‘lateness’ and couriers with the most Tweets about ‘lost’ deliveries are USPS, UPS, and DHL.

  1. Consider extra security

If you’re worried about a parcel going missing or have had bad experiences with post in the past, installing a security camera might be a good idea.

Not only will it help to deter thieves, but it will also allow you to identify any suspects if a package is stolen.

  1. Be accurate if you are the sender

Typos, missing suite numbers, and incorrect postal codes can all add to delivery complications. So, if you are the sender, be sure to check all parcel details thoroughly before sending.

If you’re printing shipping labels yourself, you should use laser printers with toner cartridges or thermal ink printers. Labels printed with inkjet printers can blur or smear when touched or exposed to damp conditions, causing scanning or delivery errors.

  1. Think about insurance

Shipping protection is a service shoppers can purchase to get reimbursed for orders that are lost, damaged, or stolen while in transit. All major carriers offer their own shipping protection as an extra cost for covering parcels over a certain value. Some carriers offer insurance for free on content valued up to $100.

If you are planning on sending several expensive items, the insurance will no doubt be worth it, especially if it’s unlikely you can afford to replace the gifts if they go missing.

  1. Finally, in the worst-case scenario, know who to complain to…

If you experience issues with a missing parcel, you should complain to the retailer, as that’s who your contract is with. It’s their responsibility to put things right and speak to their courier service directly.

The more retailers know about courier issues and complaints, the more likely they are to swap to another supplier or ensure their current couriers enhance their performance.

Charles Haverfield is CEO of U.S. Packaging and Wrapping.