NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A bunch of Amazon packages were found dumped on the side of the road in New Jersey last week.

In all, police in Harding Township say about 24 packages were found on the side of the road. Each of them had been opened, rummaged through, and items were reportedly missing from half the boxes.

Police say each of the packages were stolen before being delivered to their homes.

So how can you prevent a similar fate from befalling your most precious packages? Here’s ten ways you can protect the items you ship this holiday season, courtesy of the USPS:

1. Avoid sending cash by mail. Checks and money orders are safer than cash and may be cancelled or reissued in the event of theft.

2. Don’t leave delivered mail and packages unattended. Just as wallets and purses shouldn’t be left on the front seat of an unlocked car overnight, mail and packages shouldn’t be left uncollected in mailboxes or on front porches for any length of time.

3. Consider an alternate shipping address. Customers can arrange to have packages delivered to neighbors who are home during the day or get packages delivered at work, if permitted.

4. Change the package’s address — while it’s in transit! Customers who know they won’t be home when their package is delivered can try USPS Package Intercept. Prior to delivery, most domestic package shipments can be redirected back to the sender, to a new address or to the Post Office to be held for pickup.

5. Customize the delivery. If the package doesn’t fit in the mailbox and the customer won’t be home to receive it, the customer can provide delivery instructions online and authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified location. Visit usps.com, enter the tracking number and select Delivery Instructions. Customers can also request their packages be left with a neighbor or held at a Post Office for pickup.

6. Plan ahead. Ship using Hold for Pickup. When shipping packages, customers can choose the Hold for Pickup option and the recipients can collect the packages at their local Post Office. For customers receiving packages, they can redirect incoming packages to their local Post Office by selecting Hold for Pickup using USPS Package Intercept.

7. Going out of town? Hold mail at the local Post Office. Instead of risking leaving a package unattended for an extended period of time, customers planning on being away from home for a few days are encouraged to take advantage of the Request Hold Mail service. Letters and packages will be held securely at the local Post Office until the customers return.

8. Secure the shipment using USPS Signature Services. Signature Services help ensure the package ends up in the right hands by requiring a signature at the time of delivery.

9. Choose the most secure form of delivery. For the most valuable packages, customers can opt for Registered Mail service. Registered Mail receives special handling from the time it’s mailed until it’s delivered, documenting the chain of custody.

10. PO Boxes might be the answer. Customers concerned about the security of their mail can consider renting a Post Office Box at their local Post Office. The mail remains secure within the Post Office, accessible only when using the right key or combination. Many Post Office lobbies are open 24/7, allowing customers to retrieve mail on their schedule.

If you notice an unfamiliar vehicle following behind a USPS truck or unknown persons loitering around mailboxes, immediately report the activity to your local police department and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.

The USPS says if you feel that you are a victim of a crime involving the mail, you may submit an online complaint, by visiting www.USPS.com, and selecting the Postal Inspectors link at the bottom of the page.

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