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The holiday season is a time to reflect on family, good fortune and unity. But a recent study serves to remind us that holiday revelry and merriment can blind us to some of the season’s most dangerous and ubiquitous hazards.

As online shopping grows in popularity, the number of porch pirates is growing. Packages left near doorsteps can be motivation for thieves to swipe unopened boxes from porches or even mailboxes.

Twenty-three million Americans have had packages stolen from their home before they could open them, according to a recent study by Insurance Quotes.

The online shopping trend is increasing opportunities for thieves to swipe from doorsteps. Shoppers now make 51 percent of their purchases online, up from 47 percent in 2014, according to a report by in June.

“The holidays are a fun, festive time to celebrate with friends and family. Unfortunately they are also a busy time for criminals,” says Ryland Madison, director of marketing for home automation and security firm Cox Homelife. “Homes and porches are filled with presents or left empty due to holiday travel. These become prime targets for theft.”

How can home owners keep their packages more secure from would-be thieves? Instead of having the package delivered to their doorstep, owners may want to have their packages held at the local post office or a private delivery facility, such as UPS or FedEx, advises Sarah Brown, a home safety and security expert for

“Although this option is not always the most convenient, it ensures your package is in good hands,” Brown says. “And if you have several packages coming throughout the season and don't have the time to pick up every single one, installing an outdoor security camera can offer an added layer of protection to your front porch. Often times thieves live nearby, and catching them on camera will more likely help you retrieve anything that’s stolen.”

Further, Madison suggests home owners have neighbors or a friend collect mail while they’re away (or have your packages delivered directly to them, with permission, while you’re away), and put a stop to newspaper, magazine, and mail deliveries so it’s not obvious that you’re away during the holiday.

Home owners also should beware of other potential holiday hazards, besides porch pirates. Insurance Quotes’ study also found 7 million Americans have had a guest injured in their home, 16 million Americans have experienced a house fire due to a cooking accident, and 2 million Americans have experienced fires caused by Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.

“Half of all house fires originate in the kitchen, regardless of the time of year,” Brown says. “And since the kitchen is producing an excess amount of food during the holidays, it is especially important to keep an eye on your oven and keep combustible items away from the stove.”

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