Jacinda Tutty, 11 December 2015

’TIS the season for shoplifting.

Cosmetics, smartphones, fitbits, cameras and petrol are in the sights of Christmas crooks, with more than $1.4 billion expected to be swiped by thieves this festive season.

The Australian Retailers Association is warning retailers to be alert for sticky fingers, as the number of shoppers hitting stores is expected to skyrocket in the next two weeks leading up to Christmas.

“Theft is a serious problem for retailers, accounting for around 3 per cent of the $46.8 billion retail spend,” ARA CEO Russell Zimmerman said.

“If you break it down for Queensland, which is one of the bigger shoplifting states, roughly $285 million in products will be stolen.”

Retail traffic has been steadily increasing over the last two weekends with the latest figures from BDO’s Australian Retail Index showing a 6.24 per cent increase in sales this month compared to the same time last year.

Queensland is expected to see sales grow 4.2 per cent in the six weeks to Christmas, to $9.59 billion.

But while the shopping frenzy is good for retailers, Mr Zimmerman said it’s also a gold mine for would-be thieves.

“Christmas is a prime time for thieves, because with more people in shops it allows more opportunity to slip under the radar,” he said.

“They’re using clever tactics and grabbing things that are easy to conceal like batteries, cosmetics and small toys.

“The grocery stores are installing people to watch self-checkouts to make sure shoppers aren’t putting in things like a $20 kilo of mangoes through as $2.50 carrots so its much cheaper.”

Shoppers have also been warned to be careful with their credit cards online after a number of sites like Kmart and David Jones were hacked in the lead up to December.

“Online is expected to be bigger than ever this Christmas,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Shoppers will likely spend $2.8 billion online, which means we can also expect an increase in the numbers of opportunistic hackers looking to penetrate unprepared e-commerce operators.

“Make sure you’re using brands and websites of repute so you know who you’re dealing with.”

The number of shop lifting offences increased 10 per cent in 2015 compared to the previous year, according to Queensland Police crime statistics.

Extracted in full from the Courier Mail.