More than a fifth of Brits are thieves

taking purse Picture by: Mendip District Council/PA Archive/Press Association Images

New research has revealed that 22% of Brits have admitted to breaking the law and stealing something in the past. However, even more worryingly, when they were given a list of different types of theft, almost 50% started to blur the boundaries

So what are we stealing, and what are the risks?

One fifth steal

The research, from asked Brits about their attitude towards stealing. When asked, 'Have you ever been a victim of theft, in any way?' 54% said that they had. When asked if they had ever stolen anything in their life, 22% admitted that they had.

However, the real figure looks set to be far higher. All respondents were then shown a list of possible scenarios and were asked to state whether or not they felt each was or wasn't technically 'stealing'. The results are shocking.

Millions happy to steal

Incredibly, 56% of people said that taking money from a purse or wallet they found in the street didn't count as stealing. Likewise 53% of people felt that money left in an ATM was fair game.

A similar number were happy to keep quiet when short-changing someone. Some 49% would be happy not to tell their boss if they were overpaid, and 44% would not tell staff if they were undercharged. And a significant 36% were happy to claim more than they should on work expenses.

Stealing recognised

The website also revealed the scenarios which were most likely to be seen as stealing. Every respondent said taking money from a till was stealing, while 96% said stealing money from a friend was theft, and 87% said taking it from a family member was. Meanwhile 78% said doing a runner from a restaurant was stealing, and 69% agreed that taking a delivery not meant for them was theft.

And before you take too much comfort from these figures, it's worth bearing in mind that 13% feel that taking money from a family member isn't theft, and 21% would be happy lifting a parcel which was meant for someone else.

Mark Pearson, chairman of, said:"It's absolutely crazy to see that some people don't class it as stealing when you don't tell your boss if you've been overpaid and claim more than you should on work expenses. If the money isn't rightfully yours, then you really shouldn't keep it."

The risk

In the eyes of the law, there's no fuzzy line when it comes to crime. Just last year a PA with accountancy firm Price WaterhouseCoopers in Birmingham was jailed for nine months for an expenses scam. Admittedly Jayne Tilling, 44, who worked at the Cornwall Street offices took money on a grand scale, but it shows just how seriously the courts take this crime. The third of people who would be happy to commit this crime need to think carefully about the consequences.

Even if your activities never come to the attention of the police, cheating work out of cash, either through expenses or by not admitting you have been overpaid is fraught with danger. Most businesses consider lying on expenses to be gross misconduct - which leads to the sack. Meanwhile if they discover they have overpaid you, they are within their rights to claw it back over your next few pay packets, and won't be impressed that you kept quiet.

Pearson says: ""I suppose it's all a matter of personal opinion here, but remember that you'll have to live with the guilt, and the risk of getting caught, if you do something unlawful!"

But does he go far enough? Is his really a matter of opinion, or has the nation's moral compass gone haywire? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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