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Shady shoppers: Petty crime escalates as Australians hit hard by cost of living crisis

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Stealing at the supermarket_1800x1000

More Australians are resorting to theft as they struggle with the rising cost of living, according to new research by Finder.

A Finder survey of 1,096 respondents revealed 1 in 7 (15%) – equivalent to 3 million Australians – have admitted to stealing or fraud in the past 12 months as they reach their financial breaking point.

The research found 7% have admitted to stealing at the supermarket self-checkout – up from 5% in October 2023.

The same proportion (7%) – 1.4 million people – have deliberately lied about what they have scanned.

That's nearly double the number of people who had cheated the machines last year.

A further 5% have lied on an insurance or loan application in the past 12 months to keep costs down, and 1% have left a cafe or restaurant without paying the bill.

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, said the figures are alarming.

"Many households are struggling and are having to make difficult, and in some cases, criminal choices to cope.

"Backed-up by Finder's cost of living pressure gauge, this illustrates the serious impacts of the cost of living crisis and the financial strain people are under.

"The youngest Aussies are seemingly the most affected."

Gen Z (31%) are more likely than any other generation to have acted unlawfully due to cost of living pressures, compared to gen X (7%) and baby boomers (3%).

A staggering 17% of gen Z say they have left the supermarket without paying for an item, compared to only 2% of gen X.

Cooke urged Australians to look for ways to save on your shop.

"Consider buying generic brands instead of name brands, as they're often just as good for a fraction of the price. Budget-focused retailers like Aldi tend to do well in current conditions.

"Look for weekly flyers and coupons – supermarket rewards programs can also save you a few dollars off your shop. Also, shopping close to closing time increases your chance of coming across big markdowns.

"Every bit of savings adds up, and even small changes can make a huge difference to your grocery bill."

Cooke encouraged those who are struggling to seek help.

"You don't want to add to your financial problems by getting caught for theft.

"Lying on a loan or insurance application will invalidate the contract, resulting in claims not being paid out and might even land those involved facing fraud charges," Cooke said.

Have you started doing any of the following to save money in the last 12 months as a result of cost of living pressures?
Scanned an items as something else at the self-checkout (e.g. saying an avocado is an onion)7%
Not paid for items from the supermarket at the self-checkout7%
Lied to a provider to get a cheaper rate (e.g. insurance, loans)5%
Left a cafe/restaurant without paying1%
No, I haven't done any of the following to save money in the last 12 months85%
Source: Finder survey of 1,096 respondents, January 2024

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