An Ottawa-area couple is warning others about so-called “porch pirates,” after catching one of the thieves in the act on a security camera

“Porch pirates,” as they’re known, are thieves who follow delivery trucks along their route and pounce on a parcel once it’s been dropped off.

Alex Brisson and his partner Alex caught one of these thieves on a security camera earlier this week.

The video shows the delivery being dropped off at their front porch. Mere minutes later, someone in a dark coat and a hoodie approaches their front door, grabs the parcel, stuffs it in his coat and then leaves.

"Never in a million years would I have imagined that happen to us," Brisson told CTV Ottawa.

“Are people just literally following these delivery guys around and grabbing things as they get dropped off or is this just happenstance (where) someone walking down the street and sees it and just grabs it? You don't really know.”

There is a happy ending to this story, however, as the alleged thief apparently didn’t need the bathroom accessory inside the box and returned it about half an hour later.

"It was just surreal, it was like ‘What's going on today?’" Brisson said.

It’s hard to say exactly how often this happens, but a report out of Ring, a home security company specializing in video doorbells, suggests 19 per cent of American homeowners have had a parcel lifted from their doorstep in the past year, with a spike of thefts during the holiday season.

Ottawa police say they haven’t had a single report of a stolen delivery this year, but aren’t surprised by the dearth of complaints as many people would just think the package never arrived and complain to the company where they bought it.

Canada Post says there are ways to prevent a package from being stolen at your door. People can sign up for what’s known as “FlexDelivery,” in which a parcel can be dropped off at a post office location of their choice, instead of at their door. They can also sign up for signature delivery, where someone in the home must sign for a parcel when it gets dropped off.

“(You have to) know what you're comfortable with and then know you do have some options through the merchant you’re ordering from but also through Canada Post if you do decide to go with flex delivery,” said Aurelie Walsh, a spokeswoman with Canada Post.

If one of the first two options hasn't been selected, Canada Post will perform a "safe drop," meaning employees will drop the parcel off at your door if there's a safe spot to put it. The employees will also leave a notification slip through letter mail following a safe drop.

With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Michael O’Byrne