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Bargain bandits: 2.4 million Australians admit to petty crime

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Australian households are resorting to low-level crime as they struggle with the rising cost of living, according to new research by Finder.

The Finder survey of 1,063 respondents revealed more than 1 in 10 (12%) Australians – equivalent to 2.4 million people – confessed to stealing in the last 12 months as they reached financial breaking point.

The research found 5% of Australians have stolen items at the supermarket self-checkout, while slightly fewer (4%) have cheated at the self-serve checkouts by deliberately lying about what they have scanned.

That's 811,000 people who purposely scanned cheaper items such as an onion but bagged a more expensive one such as an avocado.

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, said many Aussie households are financially strapped.

"Money pressure is escalating with a rising number of households in survival mode.

"Both Woolies and Coles mentioned a rise in shoplifting during their recent profit announcements.

"Aussies are clearly struggling to afford basic necessities and some are turning to criminal behaviour to get by.

"This, combined with the widespread use of self-checkouts, has resulted in opportunistic shoppers leaving with more in their bags than they paid for."

The average Australian spends $740 a month on groceries – increasing by 7% in the past 12 months, according to Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker.

Finder's research shows 4% of Aussies have driven away from the bowser without paying for fuel in the past year, while 2% had left a cafe or restaurant without paying.

Gen Z (24%) were more likely than any other generation to have obtained basics like food and fuel unlawfully.

A staggering 12% of gen Z had left the supermarket without paying for an item, compared to only 3% of gen X.

Cooke said a rise in illegal behaviour had forced retailers to step up security.

"Retailers have had to crack down on theft by installing cameras at self-service kiosks and employing more staff to monitor checkouts."

Cooke urged households to examine where they can save money.

"Groceries, fuel, electricity, insurance, mortgages and rents have all gone up. But simple switches could save you hundreds of dollars a year."

Cooke encouraged Aussies to access food banks such as OzHarvest and SecondBite if they were struggling to afford food.

"As tempting as it may be, a basket discount is not worth the cost of a potential criminal record.

"Having said that, with FMCG profits up dramatically, it would be understandable for consumers to expect their retailers to do more to help them get through the cost of living crisis."

In the past 12 months, have you done any of the following to save money?
Not paid for items from the supermarket at the self-checkout5%
Scanned an item as something else at the self-checkout (e.g. saving an avocado is an onion)4%
Driven away without paying for petrol4%
Left a cafe/restaurant without paying2%
I have not done any of these in the past 12 months88%
Source: Finder survey of 1,063 Australians, September 2023

Here's 50 easy and practical money-savings tips that will help you budget and save money quick.

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