Securing Cyber Monday purchases

Nothing spoils the holiday spirit quite like a porch pirate. Millions of us will go online to shop, ship and spread some holiday cheer this season, but online buyers beware: there are plenty of Grinches ready to ruin it right at your doorstep.

"It's been a lot more common in recent years because so many people are ordering from Amazon and eBay or whatever and they're having packages delivered directly to their home," said Tampa Police spokesman Steve Hegarty. "Thieves are taking advantage of that."

But if you want to make sure your cyber steal isn't stolen, Tampa Police say the best advice is out of sight, out of mind. Ask your delivery service to leave your packages at a back or side door.

"Many of the thieves are not walking around your house looking for packages they're just driving down the street and they see a temptation," said Hegarty.

Another option? Several companies like Landport, sell heavy duty lock boxes that can be bolted down on a front porch and feature a key code that can be sent to delivery services.

"I think that's a good option," said Joshua Samuels, owner of Tampa-based home security service Master Vision Technologies. "These are really hefty steel boxes so it's going to keep your packages secure when you're not there."

But the heavy-duty security comes at a cost. Landport's boxes start at $499 and run as high as $799. And as Samuels points out, they only work if your delivery service is willing to work with you.

"With the holiday rush during the season, drivers are really pressed for time and they may not take the extra time to look up the code for the box and leave the package in it. If it's a one-time thing? I don't think they would use it. They might leave the package on top of it," joked Samuels.

The next best thing? Ship the package to your office, a trusted neighbor or friend, or take advantage of other off-porch options. UPS, FedEx and the US Postal Service all offer to ship to their nearest facility and hold your package there for you. Amazon will ship to secure lockers, usually located inside a 7-Eleven or other nearby stores.

If you must ship to your home, security experts recommend installing a camera on the front porch. Potential thieves may see it as a deterrent, and if they don't? "If you get footage of the theft you can give it to law enforcement and they'll actually have something to go off of, something more than, 'my package was there but now it's not,'" said Samuels.

Front door security cameras have helped local law enforcement catch plenty of porch pirates. The footage can also be sent to credit card companies, retailers or shippers in order to get a refund for the missing merchandise.

Thieves, of course, aren't just looking to target shoppers at the doorstep either. Protecting yourself online is crucial. The best ways to avoid getting ripped off is to make sure you're only shopping on secure sites. Check to make sure the URL on the page begins with https://, the 's' means secure. Shoppers should also use a credit, and not a debit, card online.