Fraud vs Theft: Difference and Comparison

In today’s world, crime is increasing at an exponential rate. Fraud and theft are two types of crimes that are committed by a large variety of people.

People get confused between the two since their fundamentals are similar. However, they have a lot of differences, especially in terms of their purpose, forcefulness, planning, etc. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Fraud involves deception to obtain money, property, or services, whereas theft is taking someone’s property without their consent.
  2. Fraud requires intent to deceive, while theft only requires the intent to take another’s property.
  3. Both crimes have severe consequences, but fraud involves more complex schemes than theft.

Fraud vs Theft 

The difference between fraud and theft is that fraud is when a person makes an unlawful misrepresentation resulting in a disadvantage of another person, whereas theft is the acquiring another person’s properties without their consent. Fraud is just a misrepresentation of facts and rarely involves force. However, theft always involves forcefulness. 

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Fraud is defined as an intentional act (or omission to act) with the intent of getting an illegal benefit, either for oneself or for the institution, by deception, misleading recommendations,

suppression of facts, or other unethical techniques that others believe and rely on.

Using any of the methods described above to deprive another person or institution of a benefit to which he/she/it is entitled also constitutes fraud. 

Theft is defined as the unlawful taking of another person’s property or services without their permission or consent in order to deprive the rightful owner of them.

Different types of stealing offenses are defined by statutes. The most fundamental distinction between sorts of theft is between petty theft and big theft. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison Fraud  Theft  
Meaning  Fraud is making an unlawful and deliberate misrepresentation resulting in a real disadvantage or potential disadvantage of another person. Theft is the unlawful, deliberate taking of a material movable object that belongs to somebody else and is in the possession of somebody else; or belongs to somebody else and is in the possession of the doer.  
Example  If a person writes out another person’s cheque and then tenders it for payment.  If a person enters a shop, takes a shirt, and leaves without paying.  
Planning Fraud is more elaborate and planned out  Theft is known during the act and shortly before committing the act. 
Purpose  Another individual may be damaged, take money or other valuable things  Crime against property, personal benefit  
Forcefulness Fraud is not forceful. Theft is mostly forceful or involves a lot of stealth. 

What is Fraud? 

Fraud is defined as intentionally deceptive behavior that is intended to provide the offender with an unlawful gain or to deprive a victim of their right.

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Fraud includes bankruptcy evasion, wire fraud, securities fraud, credit card fraud, and tax evasion. Fraudulent behavior can be conducted by a single individual, a group of individuals, or an entire business. 

Fraud is defined as the purposeful withholding of critical information or the making of false representations to another party in order to get something that would not have been provided without the deception. 

Fraud is defined as deception with the goal to benefit illegally or unethically at the expense of another. In finance, fraud can take many forms,

such as filing fraudulent insurance claims, falsifying financial records, pump and dump scams, and identity theft leading to unlawful transactions. 

Both states and the federal government have laws making fraud a felony, albeit not every fraudulent behavior result in a criminal trial.

Prosecutors for the government frequently have extensive discretion in deciding whether a case should proceed to trial and may instead negotiate a settlement if it leads to faster and less expensive completion.  

Some examples of fraudulent acts can be embezzlement, forgery, alteration of documents, fraudulent financial reporting, ethics violations, etc. 


What is Theft? 

The physical removal of an object capable of being stolen without the owner’s consent with the goal of permanently depriving the owner of it is characterized as theft.

It is not necessary for the thief to intend to keep the property; simply burning, selling, or abandoning the things right after obtaining is just for the purpose of making its recovery unobtainable is reason enough. 

For example, automobile theft includes first stealing the car and then selling it or even its components.

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In other circumstances, the desire to temporarily deprive the owner of the item suffices, such as when a thief steals a car to take it on a “joyride” and just abandons it in the end for the owner to find. 

The term theft is sometimes used as a synonym or informal shorthand phrase for other property crimes, including larceny, blackmail, robbery, extortion, and receiving stolen things.  

In certain countries, theft is equivalent to larceny, whilst in others, theft is defined narrowly. A thief is someone who commits a heinous act of theft. 

One of the main things that differentiate theft from other crimes that involve stealing is that it is done by force and requires a lot of stealth.  


Main Differences Between Fraud and Theft 

  1. Fraud is making an unlawful and deliberate misrepresentation resulting in a real disadvantage or potential disadvantage of another person. On the other hand, theft is the unlawful, deliberate taking of a movable material object that belongs to somebody else and is in possession of somebody else; or belongs to somebody else. 
  2. An example of fraud can be when a person writes out another person’s cheque and then tenders it for payment. An example of theft can be when a person enters a shop, takes a shirt, and then leaves without paying. 
  3. Fraud tends to be more elaborate and well planned out, whereas theft is spontaneous and spur of the moment and has very minimal planning. 
  4. The purpose of fraud is for a person to damage another person’s property by either taking their money or other valuable things with means of deception. The purpose of theft is that it is a crime against property done for personal benefit. 
  5. Fraud is not forceful, whereas theft requires a lot of force and stealth. 
Difference Between Fraud and Theft

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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6 thoughts on “Fraud vs Theft: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This information is very useful, as it’s important to be aware of the differences between these crimes and how to recognize them.

  2. I think the examples could be more varied and detailed, this would make it easier for various people to relate to the information.

  3. I don’t think this article is thorough enough, there are still some aspects left unexplained and it could include more in-depth examples.


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