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Supermarket swindlers: 1 in 5 Australians confess to stealing everyday items

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Forget flatscreen TVs and jewellery – thieves have food and fuel in their sights as the cost of living crisis deepens, according to new research from Finder.

A nationally representative survey of 1,010 respondents revealed almost 1 in 5 (19%) Australians – equivalent to 3.8 million people – admitted to stealing staples in the past 12 months.

The research shows 9% of Aussies have stolen items from the supermarket at the self-checkout, while 10% have cheated at the self-serve checkouts by deliberately lying about what they have scanned.

That's 2 million people who scanned cheaper items such as an onion but bagged a more expensive one such as an avocado in the past 12 months.

Richard Whitten, money expert at Finder, said some Australians are struggling to afford basic necessities.

"A lot of people are doing it tough as the cost of essentials like petrol, rent and energy have risen sharply.

"The result is a growing subset of Australians who are stealing consumables to survive.

"Of course, most self-checkout machines can't tell brown onions from portobello mushrooms, and I suspect a lot of Australians don't regard scanning items incorrectly on purpose to be the same level of theft as running out of a shop with a loaf of bread."

The average Australian spends $526.86 a month on groceries – with certain items spiking considerably in the past 12 months.

Finder's research shows 6% of Aussies have driven away from the bowser without paying for filling up.

With Australians being advised to brace for further price increases, Whitten said there are safer ways to cut back on costs.

"Loyalty doesn't pay – shop around for the best deal on all your expenses.

"Simple switches could save you hundreds of dollars a year."

If you're looking for a free and easy way to track your expenses and your bills, the Finder app allows you to see exactly where your money is going, so you can budget better.

"If you're really struggling to make ends meet, contact your bill providers and ask them about their hardship policies or payment plans. They can work with you to alleviate some stress and get on the front foot," Whitten said.

In the past 12 months, have you done any of the following?
Left a cafe/restaurant without paying2%
Driven away without paying for petrol6%
Stolen items from the supermarket at self-checkout9%
Scanned an item as something else at the self-checkout (e.g. saying an avocado is an onion)10%
I have not done any of these in the past 12 months81%
Source: Finder nationally representative survey of 1,010 Australians, July 2022

Make your money stretch further with 50 easy and practical money-savings tips that will help you budget and save money quickly.

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