Understanding Different Types of Theft

And how to protect yourself.


November 17, 2020

12 Understanding Different Types of Theft1

Did you know a burglary takes place about every 26 seconds in the United States? Larceny theft is even more common, occurring every six seconds. What’s the difference? One involves breaking and entering; the other doesn’t necessarily. Are you confused yet?

While the average person doesn’t realize it, there are countless types of theft, each with its own degree of risk to victims and varying penalties for criminals. Understanding different types of theft crimes can help you better protect yourself, your family, and your property from those most likely to impact you.

Theft, robbery, and burglary: what’s the difference?

While theft, robbery, and burglary are often used interchangeably when people are talking about property crimes, they are, by definition, different types of crimes:

  • Theft is one of the most common types of criminal offense and involves taking property from someone else without that person’s consent. Types of theft can range from petty larceny to grand theft, but all involve the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property’s use or possession.

  • Robbery is a type of theft crime, but it has components that theft does not. In the case of robbery, the criminal is taking property from a person and using force (or the threat of force) to do so. If someone breaks into your home and says he will stab you if you don’t hand over your wallet, then that’s robbery.

  • Burglary doesn’t always involve theft, even though the word is often incorrectly used interchangeably with the word theft. Burglary, instead, requires unlawful entry into a home, business, or other structure with the intent to commit theft even if the intended theft is not successful.

Residential burglaries are more common than commercial ones because they are generally easier to commit. While places of business may be in well-lit, public areas, and have extensive security systems in place, homes, on the other hand, typically don’t represent quite that level of challenge to a burglar.

You can reduce your chances of being a victim of burglary, theft, or robbery by installing a home security system that both deters intruders (don’t forget to place your security company signage in the front yard) and can stop them in their tracks if they should gain entry into your home.


Larceny is a broad type of theft that simply means unlawfully taking or using someone else’s property. Larceny can range from petty theft, like shoplifting, to grand larceny, which involves the theft of high-value items like automobiles or valuable artwork. Larceny can also include the relatively easy theft of stealing that Amazon package off your front porch.

The best protection against larceny is a home security system. One that includes security cameras to monitor your front door (and the packages UPS and FedEx leave there) is even better.

Identity theft

Identity theft has become increasingly common in recent years. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, some 17 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. While ever-advancing technology gives you more opportunities to secure your homes and property, it can also leave you vulnerable to identity theft from hackers who break into online records to secure identification information and account numbers. If you do online shopping or online bill pay, you’re at risk.

You can protect yourself from identity theft, however, by staying on top of your credit report and checking it several times a year for suspicious activity, including the opening of new credit accounts you haven’t authorized. You might also consider enlisting an identity theft monitoring service to keep an eye out for unusual activity like residential address change requests or openings of new lines of credit.

Auto theft

If you park your vehicle in a lot, a parking garage, even in your driveway, it’s vulnerable to auto theft. The surest way to protect your car is by securing it in a locked garage with an alarm system. At the very least, you can reduce your risk of auto theft by equipping your vehicle with an auto alarm system. It’s also a good idea to take your valuables (like your purse, phone, and house keys) with you when you leave your car to avoid tempting would-be thieves.

Auto theft leaves you vulnerable to other types of break-ins as well. If a thief nabs your car, he or she will also have access to your name and address (from your vehicle registration details in the glove compartment) and could target you for residential or identity theft as well.


Unlike many types of theft, shoplifting doesn’t involve stealing from an individual. Rather, it occurs when someone steals goods from a retail establishment. Shoplifting can range from something as simple as swiping a Coke out of a convenience store cooler to nabbing an iPhone from a store display.


Fraud is a white-collar crime because it doesn’t involve violence or breaking and entering. It’s a type of theft where someone convinces you to give up your property under false pretenses, and, like identity theft, has become quite common. In fact, Americans reported losing nearly $1.5 billion to fraud in 2018. Fraud can range from something as easily accomplished as a thief stealing and using your credit card to falsification of income documents and reporting in qualifying for a vehicle or mortgage loan.

Protecting yourself from theft

You can proactively protect yourself and your family from being victims of theft by taking various preventive measures. You can subscribe to a credit or identity theft monitoring service to reduce your chances of being a victim of fraud. And when it comes to protecting your home and physical property, you can invest in a home security system. Contact a Brinks Home™ senior security consultant to discuss options for keeping your home and family safe.

Allison Clark is a senior writer for Brinks Home. She enjoys educating others on the benefits of smart home security and using technology to simplify everyday life.

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