Shoplifting Statistics (2024): New Survey Results and Tips!

A woman smiles while shopping, holding a candy bar in a store. Text: "Shoplifting Stats: New Survey Results!"

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: June 12, 2024 1:37pm CDT

A woman smiles while shopping, holding a candy bar in a store. Text: "Shoplifting Statistics: New Survey Results!"

Have you ever wondered how common the crime of shoplifting is in America or what drives people to steal from stores?

A recent survey by Express Legal Funding, conducted with the help of SurveyMonkey, reveals many surprising statistics about shoplifting, including that more than 40% of American adults report having stolen merchandise from a store before.

In this article, our editorial team gives you access to the data and insights gathered from these brand-new survey results.

The following infographic presents a few of the many highlights covered in this original resource.

Infographic on shoplifting statistics, trends, motives, and hesitations.

We welcome you to continue reading to learn about shoplifter demographics, details such as why they commit retail theft, and how their motivations and hesitance vary across age, gender, income, region, and even the mobile phone operating system (iOS vs. Android) they use.

Shoplifting Statistics Highlights:

In addition to this animated video, the following list provides some of the most notable and relevant insights from the shoplifting statistics survey.

How common is shoplifting?

Overall Prevalence

  • 40% of respondents admitted to having shoplifted at least once in their lives, indicating that shoplifting is a relatively common behavior.
  • 66% of respondents in all age groups know someone who has shoplifted before, indicating that this behavior is widespread across different generations.

Gender Differences

  • Across all regions, women are consistently more likely than men to know someone who has shoplifted, with a difference of roughly 10% in each region.

Age Trends

  • The likelihood of shoplifting decreases with age. The 18-24 age group reports the highest likelihood of shoplifting in the next two years, while the 55+ group shows the lowest.

Motivations

  • The most prevalent and consistently cited primary reason for shoplifting across all demographics (52% overall) was financial hardship.
  • The most commonly cited reason for hesitation towards retail theft across all regions is the belief that shoplifting is morally wrong or against their religion (70%), followed by the fear of getting in trouble with the police.

Technology Trend

  • More Android phone users (17%) report they will likely shoplift within the next two years, while only 13% of iPhone users said they were likely to.

Awareness of Shoplifting Behavior

2/3 Know a Shoplifter with 2 green, 1 gray figures infographic chart.

Survey Question: Have you or someone you know ever shoplifted?

Aim: To assess people’s awareness of shoplifting among their acquaintances.

Key Observations:

Overall Prevalence

  • 66% of all respondents reported knowing someone who has shoplifted, indicating that shoplifting is a behavior that touches many people’s lives, either directly or indirectly.

Gender Differences

  • 71% of female respondents reported knowing someone who has shoplifted, compared to 61% of male respondents. This suggests that women may be more likely to talk about shoplifting behavior within their social circles.

Age Trends

  • Awareness of shoplifting among acquaintances is relatively consistent across age groups, ranging from 59% among 18-24 year-olds to 68% among 35-44 year-olds. This indicates that shoplifting is not limited to a specific generation and is prevalent across different age groups.

Regional Differences

  • The South has the highest percentage (70%) of respondents who know someone who has shoplifted, followed by the Midwest (64%), West (65%), and Northeast (63%). This, at a bare minimum, indicates that awareness of shoplifting is slightly higher in the South compared to other regions.

Implications

  • The widespread awareness of shoplifting among acquaintances suggests that this behavior might be perceived as more normalized or socially acceptable than previously thought.
  • The gender difference in awareness highlights the potential for different social dynamics and communication patterns around shoplifting between men and women.
  • The regional variations raise questions about potential cultural or socioeconomic factors that might influence people’s exposure to shoplifting within their communities.

Overall, this survey data paints a picture of shoplifting as a pervasive issue that affects a broad range of individuals and is not limited to any specific demographic group or region.

This understanding can be valuable for developing targeted prevention and intervention strategies that address the social and cultural factors contributing to this behavior.

Prior Shoplifting Behavior

Infographic: 40% admit to shoplifting, shown with a green/gray semi-circle gauge; highlights behavior stats.

Survey Question: Have you personally shoplifted before?

Aim: To assess how many people have shoplifted at least once in their lives.

What demographic shoplifts the most?

Shoplifting Demographics

Gender

  • Women (43%) were slightly more likely to admit to shoplifting than men (37%). 10% of respondents, evenly split among men and women, selected “choose not to answer” to this question.

According to the survey data, women shoplift the most.

Woman in store with blue shelves shoplifts watch using purse.

Age

  • The 35-44 age group had the highest percentage of self-reported shoplifters (25%), followed by the 25-34 and 55+ age groups (both 20%). The 18-24 and 45-54 age groups had a lower percentage (15%).

Income

  • Respondents with household incomes under $50,000 were more likely to admit to prior shoplifting incidents than those with higher incomes.

Region

  • While shoplifting was reported across all regions, it was slightly more prevalent in the South (45%) compared to the West (42%), Northeast (38%), and Midwest (35%).

Why do people shoplift?

Motivations

  • The most common reason for shoplifting was financial hardship (52%), followed by getting a thrill or high from stealing (19%).

A man is stealing tools in a hardware store aisle, pushing a cart full of tools, and carrying a bag.

Repeat Shoplifting Behavior

  • 27% of respondents who admitted to previously shoplifting said they were “Likely” or “Very likely” to shoplift again in the next two years.

Motivation for Shoplifting

Reasons People Shoplift Infographic

Survey Question: What was your main motivation for shoplifting?

Aim: To assess the most common reasons why people commit retail theft.

Financial Hardship

  • The most common reason for shoplifting is financial hardship, accounting for 52% of cases.

Woman in financial hardship shoplifts a candy bar in her green purse at a grocery store while a store employee watches from the background.

Situational Factors

  • A significant portion of respondents (22%) stated that situational factors were the main reasons behind their decision to shoplift, such as dealing with annoying store staff (18%) or encountering long checkout lines (4%).

Addictive Component

  • Seeking a high or thrill from stealing was cited as the main factor for shoplifting in 19% of the cases (Engaging in theft can be addictive, as it may lead to the release of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that induces feelings of pleasure.).

Peer Pressure

  • Women (18%) were more likely to report peer pressure as being their primary motivation for shoplifting than men (12%).

Deterrent Against Shoplifting

Infographic: Why people avoid retail theft—Morals (70%), Police (63%), Fear of Getting Caught (55%), Shame (48%).

Survey Question: What makes you hesitant to steal merchandise from a store?

Aim: To assess the most common reasons why people avoid engaging in shoplifting behavior.

Moral and Religious Beliefs

  • The most common reason people report not shoplifting is that they believe it is morally wrong or goes against their religion (70%).

Legal Consequences

  • The second most common reason people report hesitance for shoplifting is that they do not want to get in trouble with the police (63%).

Emotional Impact

  • The emotional aspect of shoplifting is also a powerful deterrent. More than half of respondents (55%) stated they are nervous about getting caught, while 48% cited fear of the potential shame and embarrassment associated with shoplifting.

A retail store employee catches a shoplifter, causing shame and embarrassment for the customer caught stealing.

Gender-Based Insights

Difference between male and female reasons why they are hesitant to shoplift.
Reason Hestiant to ShopliftMale (%)Female (%)
Do not want to get in trouble with the police.59%67%
Believe shoplifting is morally wrong or against religion.65%75%
Nervous about getting caught.50%60%
Fear shame and embarrassment if caught.43%53%
None of the above9%5%
  • Women consistently reported more hesitation towards shoplifting than men across all reasons.
  • The most significant gender differences are observed in the categories related to moral concerns and the fear of shame/embarrassment, with 10% more women citing these concerns than men.

Age Trends

  • Hesitancy to shoplift generally increases with age across all categories, indicating that older individuals may be more risk-averse and have a stronger sense of moral responsibility.

Likelihood of Shoplifting

Survey Question: How likely are you to shoplift in the next two years?

Aim: To evaluate individuals’ perception of the likelihood that they will engage in shoplifting in the future.

Low Likelihood

  • The majority of respondents (57%) indicated they are very unlikely to shoplift in the next two years, suggesting a strong aversion to this behavior among most individuals.

Potential for Shoplifting

  • A total of 15% of respondents (4% very likely + 11% likely) expressed some degree of likelihood of shoplifting in the next two years, indicating that a significant minority might engage in this behavior in the future.

Demographics

Gender

  • Overall, men are more likely than women to express a willingness to shoplift in the future.
  • The most notable difference is in the “very likely” category. Males (8%) are twice as likely as females (4%) to shoplift within the next two years.
  • Females (57%) are more likely than males (46%) to report being “very unlikely” to shoplift.

Age

  • The 18-24 age group (38%) expresses the highest likelihood (13% very likely + 25% likely) of shoplifting again in the next two years.
  • The likelihood of shoplifting decreases with age, with the 55+ age group (9%) showing the lowest likelihood (3% very likely + 6% likely).

Animated timeline showing a man aging from being a child to elderly man, subtle reference to age demographic trend for shoplifters.

Income

Likelihood of shoplifting broken down by household income.
Household IncomeVery LikelyLikelyUnlikelyVery Unlikely
7%15%23%55%
$25,000-$49,9995%12%29%54%
$50,000-$74,9993%9%28%60%
$75,000-$99,9992%7%31%60%
$100,000+1%4%35%60%
  • The likelihood of shoplifting decreases as household income increases. Those in the lowest household income bracket (<$25,000) have the highest likelihood of shoplifting (22%), while those in the highest income bracket ($100,000+) have the lowest (5%).
  • A notably higher percentage of individuals in lower income brackets express a likelihood of shoplifting, indicating a potential relationship between financial hardship and the temptation to steal.

Region

  • The South (37%) is the region with the highest likelihood of respondents shoplifting in the next two years, compared to the West (31%), Midwest (29%), and Northeast (26%).

Implications and Insights

Normalization of Shoplifting

The widespread awareness and admission of shoplifting suggest it may be more normalized than previously thought.

Gender Dynamics

  • The higher awareness among women indicates potential differences in social dynamics and communication patterns.

Regional and Socioeconomic Factors

  • Regional differences highlight the influence of cultural and socioeconomic factors on shoplifting behavior.

How to stop shoplifting?

Solutions to the Stop Shoplifting Problem

Understanding the motivations and demographics of shoplifters can help develop targeted prevention and intervention strategies. Here are some overarching concepts to mitigate and prevent shoplifting:

  • The fear of legal consequences remains a significant factor in deterring shoplifting. Maintaining a strong focus on law enforcement and highlighting theft reporting policies and the potential penalties for shoplifting could further discourage this behavior.
  • Understanding the financial motive of shoplifting, particularly for third-party resale, can inform legislatures of laws that need to be made or adjusted to fight retail theft, like the INFORM Consumers Act, which went into effect in 2023.
  • Addressing the emotional aspects of shoplifting, such as the fear of getting caught and the potential for shame and embarrassment, could also be an effective prevention strategy.
  • Tailoring theft prevention messages and store warning signage to specific demographics, such as teenagers who are younger and might be more susceptible to peer pressure or thrill-seeking, could be beneficial.

Shoplifting Prevention Tips and Intervention Strategies

The following are some practical solutions store owners can implement to mitigate and prevent shoplifting:

Employee Training

  • Awareness Programs: Train employees to recognize suspicious behavior and understand the store’s policies on theft prevention measures, such as shopkeeper’s privilege.
  • Customer Service: Encourage staff to engage with customers, like asking if they need help finding something. Potential shoplifters are less likely to steal if they know that they are being watched.

A store employee helps a customer at a department store, creating an inviting, secure space while subtly deterring shoplifters.

Store Layout and Design

  • Strategic Placement: Place high-value items in areas that are easily monitored by staff and surveillance cameras.
  • Clear Sight Lines: Arrange aisles and displays to eliminate blind spots and ensure clear visibility throughout the store.
  • Mirrors: Use convex mirrors to enhance visibility in aisles and corners.

Technology and Surveillance

  • CCTV Cameras: Install high-quality surveillance cameras at strategic points, including entrances, exits, and high-risk areas. The recorded footage can be used as evidence in shoplifting incidents.
  • Entrance Alerts: Stores using entrance alert systems can reduce shoplifting by notifying staff of every entry.
  • Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS): Use EAS tags on merchandise that trigger an alarm if not deactivated at the checkout.
  • RFID Technology: Implement RFID tags for real-time inventory tracking and theft detection.

Access Control

  • Entrance and Exit Management: Monitor all entrances and exits. To control the flow of customers, stores should consider having a single point of entry and exit.
  • Security Personnel: Employ security guards to patrol the store and check receipts at the exit.

Customer Engagement

  • Greeting Customers: Train employees to greet every customer who enters the store. This simple act can deter potential shoplifters.
  • Customer Service Presence: Ensure that store staff are always present and visible on the sales floor.

A sales associate and customer chat in a brightly lit Macy's store to proactively deter shoplifting.

Store Policies

  • Clear Signage: Display clear anti-theft signs throughout the store, informing customers that surveillance is in use and theft will be prosecuted.
  • Bag Checks: Implement a standard policy for checking bags, backpacks, and large purses at the entrance or exit.

Community Outreach

  • Local Law Enforcement: Develop a good relationship with local law enforcement agencies for quick response and support.
  • Community Programs: Engage with community programs that aim to reduce crime and support at-risk individuals.

Loss Prevention Programs

  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular inventory audits to identify and address retail theft patterns.
  • Incident Reporting: Establish a system for reporting and documenting shoplifting incidents for analysis and action.

Technology Integration

  • Inventory Management Systems: Use advanced inventory management systems to quickly track stock levels and identify discrepancies.
  • POS Systems: Integrate retail point of sale (POS) systems, like Square, with inventory management to detect and alert for anomalies.

Conclusion on Shoplifting Stats

Overall, the shoplifting statistics and survey results presented in this study provide valuable insights into the various factors that deter individuals from engaging in this illegal activity.

The findings shed light on the complex interplay of moral, emotional, and practical considerations that influence people’s decisions when it comes to shoplifting.

By gaining a deeper understanding of these deterrents, stores, and lawmakers can develop more targeted and effective prevention strategies to reduce the prevalence of shoplifting in our society.

This, in turn, will contribute to creating a safer and more secure shopping environment for everyone involved.

We are confident that you found this a helpful and fun-to-read resource from our team at Express Legal Funding, a reliable leader in fast and affordable pre-settlement funding for consumers.

We encourage you to explore other articles on our company blog about crime statistics for more insightful content, such as learning about the cities in Texas with the highest crime rates.

About the Author

Author profile
Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Author Website

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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