A new study has found that shoppers who leave the store without buying anything are much more likely to be walking away with stolen merchandise than those who do make a purchase. Slightly more than 8% of the people who enter a store steal something.

Criminologist Richard Hollinger discovered that people who left without paying for any items were six times more likely to be shoplifters who bypassed the check-out line to avoid drawing attention to themselves. He cautions against trying to spot shoplifters based on race, gender, age and ethnicity. He points out that salespeople who ask “May I help you” are trained to do this in order to give shoplifters the message, “We know you?re here, so don’t shoplift.”

In Hollinger’s University of Florida study, researchers secretly observed 1,365 shoppers in an Atlanta drug store with closed-circuit television cameras. Hollinger says that behavioral cues are the way to spot professional shoplifters. They often scan the store to make sure no none is watching them. His team found that many shoplifting stereotypes are not true. For instance, black males are not more likely to shoplift. It’s also not true that females are more likely to steal things than men. He says, “The rule of thumb always has been that women shoplift more than men simply because there are more women shoppers, unless it’s a sporting goods store or a hardware store. But we were able to determine that men actually stole more often than women.” It’s also not true that teenagers steal more than adults. The UF study found that most shoplifters are between ages 35 and 54.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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