Crooks Don't Take a Christmas Break . / Credit: Crooks don't take Christmas break image via Shutterstock

You're playing Secret Santa this year and don't even know you're in the game. But your wallet does. U.S. retailers are expected to lose $8.9 billion from crime over the holiday season, mostly from employee theft and shoplifting, a new study shows. And consumers are picking up the tab for this Grinch-like behavior.

American retailers could lose $4.7 billion through employee theft, $3.8 billion though shoplifting and $400 million through vendor and distribution, according to a new study by the Centre for Retail Research, a U.K.-based research organization. The losses could represent a 4 percent increase over the same period last year. This could add an extra $98 to each family's shopping bill through increased retails costs thanks to the theft, the report suggests.

The top three product categories most likely to be stolen over the Christmas period are alcohol, women's clothing and fashion accessories.

Other attractive targets for sticky-fingered crooks are toys, perfume, health and beauty gift packs and electronic devices such as smartphones and tablet computers.

Also making the top 10 list for thieves are toiletries for men, DVD gift sets and game consoles, food and Christmas decorations, electrical goods including hardware/DIY, watches and jewelry, and chocolates and confectionery.

"The Christmas season is an especially attractive time for criminals," said Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research and author of the report. "Thieves take advantage of busy stores to steal high-value, high-demand goods. As a result, retailers face a big threat from professional and semi-professional thieves, many of whom steal goods with the intention of reselling them. Organized retail crime is a major concern for retailers — especially since the average amount stolen per incident is much higher than 'normal' thefts."

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