Theft among retail workers is up — particularly the fraudulent use of gift cards, the Times reports. According to a recent study, store workers, not shoplifters, are responsible for the majority of the estimated $36 billion per year that is heisted from retail establishments, and a growing number of thieving employees are using gift certificates to commit their crimes.

"Gift card fraud is spiking," said retail theft expert Joshua Bamfield. "To employees, this is like currency. It’s almost as good as the U.S. dollar." While the most common form of retail employee theft continues to be "sweethearting," in which cashiers fail to ring up goods brought to the register by accomplices, many workers have begun submitting fake refunds for merchandise and putting the cash on gift cards. Other cashiers have started giving customers blank cards and transferring the shoppers' cash onto their own gift certificates.

Insiders say that gift card theft is on the rise because it's easier to steal a plastic card than it is to steal merchandise or cash. In recent weeks, police accused a 23-year-old worker at the Saks flagship store in Manhattan of ringing up $130,000 in false merchandise returns and putting the money onto a gift card. Cops have also arrested a 20-year-old Best Buy employee in Staten Island and a 22-year-old KMart employee in Hazlet, New Jersey who are suspected of using gift cards to heist $600 and $1,500 respectively.