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The refusal of B to give something borrowed from C back to C is not automatically theft. In some cases it might have to be resolved using the Civil Courts and you may need to see a solicitor for advice.


B borrows C's power drill. B keeps promising to return it, he does not intend to keep it and it is just left in the garage, but he doesn't get round to giving it back. If this is pure forgetfulness, which goes on for a fairly long period (despite reminders) it would not be theft. However, eventually there comes a point where C has been deprived of his property for so long that B has no excuse for not returning it (perhaps a year or more) and the Criminal Courts would consider he had stolen the drill.

If you have a problem with someone who has borrowed your property, keep a record of all the occasions you have asked for it back and then ask a solicitor to send a formal letter asking for the return of the property. If the property is still not returned, there may sufficient to justify making a complaint of theft to the police.

Every case will be different and it may be, for example, that the borrower claims the property was a gift. In circumstances like that, the police may not be willing to take action and you must to go to the Civil Courts to get your property back. In the case of a borrowed power drill this may not be economically worthwhile. Below is a brief summary of the offence of theft, it is not intended to be a comprehensive explanation.

Theft occurs when someone dishonestly appropriates (takes possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself/someone else without permission) some property that does not belong to him or her and treats it as his or her own and has no intention of returning the property to its rightful owner.


B is walking along the street chatting on her mobile phone when C runs past and takes the phone from her hand and runs off with it.

B takes an item from the shelf of a shop and leaves the shop without paying for it (shoplifting).



If hired property has not been returned it will only be a theft in certain circumstances.


B hires a car from C for a week and fails to return it on the due date. This does not automatically constitute a theft. B must have somehow treated the car as if it was his own, sold it on or moved from the area and taken the car with him and in doing so permanently deprived C of the ownership of the car.

In many cases, hired property is returned late or there is some misunderstanding. This is likely to be a breach of contract. It is advisable to make some basic enquiries into the matter (or speak to a lawyer) prior to making a formal complaint to the police, so you can give them as much information about the circumstances as possible. There can be a fine line between a civil dispute and theft.

If you are in any doubt (once you have found out why the goods have not been returned), contact the police or a solicitor who will help to explain the law accordingly. A brief summary of theft is below; it is not intended as a comprehensive explanation.

Theft occurs when someone dishonestly appropriates (takes possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself/someone else without permission) some property that does not belong to him or her and treats it as his or her own and has no intention of returning the property to its rightful owner.


This could be a case of fraud. Fraud is where a person obtains or tries to obtain property through some form of deception or misrepresentation. Currently the most common form of fraud is credit card fraud, where someone pretends to be you or uses your personal details to obtain cash or property.

You should immediately contact your bank/credit card company to stop your card and report the discrepancies. The credit card company/bank will have their own fraud department and will work in conjunction with the police. This means you do not need to inform the police as it will be done for you if necessary.

Have you been the victim of identity theft? Ensure personal and financial information is shredded or otherwise destroyed. Do NOT put such material in the dustbin or take it to the dump. See SQ506 for more information on identity theft and how to prevent it.


B rings up a mobile phone company and uses C's credit card details to order a top up card. B has obtained the top up card by deception. He has presented the card details to the phone company as if he has the authority to use them. The phone company would never have allowed him to have the top up card if they knew that he was not the card owner.


Yes it is. Housebreaking is an aggravation of theft where a person enters a building or part of a building without permission and proceeds to steal property from within. For many people this means that someone has entered your house without permission and stolen property from inside your house.

The whole body does not have to enter the house, so if someone puts their arm through the letterbox and steal keys for example, this is a classed as a Housebreaking

Examples of housebreaking:

B smashes a patio door and opens it and goes into living room and steals a TV and DVD player and leaves the house.

B puts his hand through an open window and steals a purse that has been left on the kitchen unit.

If you have suffered from a housebreaking, please contact the police straight away and try not to touch anything that you think the offender may have touched.

See the websites in related information for further advice and details of how you can register your property with a serial number.


This amounts to a fraud. The offence is committed when you use goods or services, knowing that payment is expected there, and then and you leave, failing to pay for those services. By going into the restaurant and having a meal, a person implies that they have the means to pay for it.


Filling a car up with petrol, failing to pay for it and driving off from the petrol forecourt.

Eating a meal in a restaurant and failing to pay for it.


Each force will have its own policy on this and you will need to contact them. If you believe there is enough evidence within the vehicle that may provide fingerprints or blood DNA, then this should be specified when you report the crime so the SOCO can attend. Try to avoid touching items within the car until this has been done. Also ensure the car remains secure throughout e.g. board up/replace windows.

If the place where the fingerprints are can be removed, say a CD cover or a can of de-icer then keep the item safe pending the advice you receive from your force.

See the website in related information, which is a website where you can register free all property with a serial number.


The police do not deal with benefit fraud, the Benefits Agency prosecute their own cases.

If you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud then contact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

You can also report suspected benefit fraud online or by post.


Identity theft is when a person uses your details to obtain goods and services without your knowledge or permission. The information is usually obtained from a search of your waste so be wary about what you throw out. It is usually connected with criminal activity and costs the UK an estimated £1.3 billion per year.

Your personal information is a very valuable tool to a criminal and you should take steps to protect it. A few basic tips are:

  • Never throw away bank/credit card statements and receipts (especially those with your name and card details on), always shred them.
  • Always keep valuable documents (driving licence, passport, bank statements) in a safe place i.e. a locked drawer.
  • Never divulge your pin number or passwords to anyone, a bank will never ask for them in full.
  • Be wary of giving your personal details to anyone over the phone; always check that they are genuine.
  • Carry out a personal credit check on yourself. Please see the link to National Debtline in Related Information. 

If you are the victim of identity theft it depends on the circumstances as to whether you, the organisation involved or both report it to the police.

For example:

  • You have not received a credit/debit card and you were expecting one.
  • You have items on your bank or credit card statement that are not yours.

You should report the loss/theft of your credit/debit card to the police and they will record it. With regards to any fraudulent transactions the financial institutions are the first and main point of contact for you to report the matter. They will investigate and if appropriate they will involve the police.

If however, you are being chased by an institution for a debt that you know nothing about then you are not technically the 'victim' but the organisation who has the debt is and you need to speak to them and they can make the necessary report.

In most cases you should not be required to pay the debt unless the company/financial institution can prove that you were negligent.

It is important to contact the institutions involved and make them aware of the situation, do not just ignore the problem, it will not go away!

Please also see the Information Commissioner's Office website in Related Information for further advice, including registering with the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (CIFAS).

CIFAS, the UK's Fraud Prevention Service offer a registration service for a relatively small yearly fee. Once registered an entry will be placed against your name meaning that any credit applications will be verified and possibly further identification required. This could delay any credit application but will act as a safeguard against any future fraud.


Whilst there is no legal requirement to report a crime there is a moral duty on every one of us to report to the police anything that you have seen that may be a crime or something that you suspect may be a crime.


It depends on what type of incident you are reporting. This area of law is very complex so the following is a basic guide only (as there are exceptions).

Road Traffic Incidents -

  • Reportable road traffic collisions (see questions in related information for more details) have to be reported as soon as practicable or within 24 hours in any case. Some forces may not take a report of a road traffic collision after a specified amount of time.
  • Minor road traffic incidents have to be prosecuted so therefore reported within 6 months (e.g. failing to wear a seatbelt)
  • For serious road traffic incidents, there is no time limit when these can be reported/prosecuted (dangerous driving).
  • Please note that a collision only needs to be reported if it is a reportable road accident.
Crime -

Most crimes do not have a time limit for reporting them. The crimes that do have time limits are summary only which means that they can only be tried at a Sheriff Court so are relatively minor offences, they must be prosecuted within 6 months (e.g. common assault, harassment and take without owners consent).

Do bear in mind that the longer the period between the incident happening and reporting the matter to the police the harder it will be for the police to gather the evidence.


There are a number of things you can do:

  • Notify all companies/organisations that you are moving, see below for a guide of who to notify.
  • Redirect your mail, see website in related information, you can register for a minimum of a month and for a maximum of 2 years.
  • Register with the Mail Preference Service, you can register your new and previous address, see website in related information.
  • If possible call round at your previous address to collect any stray mail that may have been delivered.

Suggested list of organisations to notify on moving house:

  • Telephone provider
  • Mobile phone network
  • Local authority
  • Gas and electric companies
  • Water authority
  • Credit card companies
  • Banks/building societies
  • GP's surgery
  • Dentist
  • Optician
  • DVLA for driving licence
  • Vehicle documents, V5 etc
  • Any organisation/society that you are a member of
  • TV licence
  • Any guarantees that you have
  • Cable/satellite TV companies
  • Friends/relatives
  • Employers
  • Loyalty cards


This question is relevant whether you live in the UK and are a victim of crime elsewhere or whether you live in other parts of the world and believe you are a victim of a crime committed in the UK.

You need to make a report to the police in your own country. You should not make the report direct to the police in the country where you think the crime has happened as the request must be from a recognised law enforcement authority.

Depending on the type of crime it may be that the actual offence has happened in your country but the suspect lives in another country. There are official procedures that must be followed when investigating international crime which mean that you must report the matter to your local police/law enforcement agency first.

If the crime is theft, criminal damage, theft from motor vehicle, vandalism or hate crime or incident and you are certain that it has happened in the United Kingdom then you can report the crime online, see the website in related information.

If you are still in the country where the crime occurred then you should make a report to the local police. It is only when you are not in the country where the crime occurred that the above applies.


Informing the Police

You should contact the police using the non-emergency 101 number although if you consider the situation an emergency then use 999. The police may not send an officer out and you may be dealt with via the telephone. They will give you a crime reference number – you'll need this when you contact your insurance company to inform them what has happened or if you want to claim back your vehicle tax. The police will tell DVLA about the theft and if the vehicle is found.

If there is any evidence, for example CCTV or items left behind by the thieves that may contain fingerprints then inform the police. Use gloves when handling any item for fingerprint examination and do not handle it any more than necessary.

If the thieves are arrested and charged with the offence then in appropriate circumstances they will appear before the court and be dealt with.

Informing your insurance company and the DVLA

Inform your insurance company of what has happened as soon as possible and keep them informed of any developments. They will explain what you need to do and how you can make an insurance claim. If your insurance company pay your claim you need to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You can do this by completing the 'notification of sale or transfer' (V5C/3) section of your registration document (V5C) and send it to the DVLA together with a letter stating when the payment was accepted and including details of the insurance company. You will then need to send the remaining part of the V5C to your insurance company. If your insurance company ask you to send the whole of the V5C to them, then send a letter to the DVLA providing details of the insurance company, the date of the claim, and the following information about your vehicle:

  • registration number
  • make
  • model
  • colour

You must also include your signature.

DVLA contact details are as follows:

Customer enquiries: 0300 790 6802
Textphone : 18001 0300 123 1279
Monday to Friday, 8am to 7pm
Saturday, 8am to 2pm
Fax: 0300 123 0798

or write to:

Vehicle customer services
SA99 1AR

Obtain a refund on your car tax

If your vehicle is not found within a week, you can apply for a vehicle tax refund by completing form V33 (remember to include your crime reference number) and sending it to the:

Refund Section

SA99 1AL

Form V33 is not available online you need to contact DVLA Customer enquiries on 0300 790 6802.

Private registration numbers
If your vehicle had a personalised registration number and has not been recovered you can apply to have the registration number transferred to your replacement vehicle after one year providing the following apply:

  • You must have reported the theft to the police.
  • DVLA must have recorded the vehicle as stolen for at least 12 months - the police will inform the DVLA of the theft when you report it to them.
  • Your insurer must send a letter to DVLA confirming they don't object to the number being reissued.
  • The vehicle must have been taxed and had an MOT at the time of theft.

You can apply to keep/transfer your registration number or obtain further information via the link below (you will need to include the registration number):

DVLA Personalised Registrations
SA99 1DS


It is far easier to steal a mobile phone when it is in use or on display. When you are using your mobile phone in a public place try and be aware of your surroundings and anyone that is perhaps standing too close to you. In order to help prevent theft of your mobile phone keep your mobile phone in a secure place on your person or in your bag.

You can also protectively mark your mobile phone, for further information on protective marking please see the question below:

I've heard that the police to protective marking on property, am I eligible?

The police do not need to see proof that you owned the phone or see the phone's box or contract. If you need to find the IMEI/serial number (a number that is unique to your mobile phone) you can do so by typing *#06# into your phone. It can also be obtained from calling your network provider.

See the website in related information which allows you to register free any property with a serial number.


Yes, as long as you are keeping them for your own personal use and are not selling them. You cannot, however, pick the whole plant, that would be classed as theft. The flowers must be genuinely wild (not planted for a commemorative purpose etc). You must exercise caution if you are going to pick wild flowers as you do not want to inadvertently commit an offence.

The same applies for picking wild mushrooms.


Fraud is a common law offence in Scotland and it covers a wide variety of activities.

Essentially a fraud will be committed when someone makes a false representation to another in order to gain from that. For example if you steal a chequebook and then try to pay for goods in a shop with a cheque then you will commit a fraud as you are falsely claiming to be the person named on the chequebook.


Just because the car is advertised on a reputable site such as Autotrader or Ebay does not automatically mean that the seller is genuine. Many criminal gangs have been using reputable sites to advertise cars that don't belong to them or don't even exist.

Once the buyer decides that they want the car they are then taken to a fake website where they hand over the cash for a car that they will never see. The website is supposed to hold on to the cash until the vehicle is received (supposedly an independent place to hold the money whilst the deal is done), but it goes straight into the bank accounts of the criminal gangs, most of whom are based abroad.

There are a few ways to spot a fraudulent car sale:

  • check the address and postcode are correct
  • if it is supposed to be a big company there should be a landline and not just a mobile number
  • check the mobile number and look out for suspicious voicemail messages
  • look for spelling mistakes
  • be very wary if you cannot meet the buyer in person and physically see the car before you buy it.
  • It's better to miss the 'bargain' than lose a lot of money. Don't let the red mist of greed take hold of you, and think things through objectively.

See the website in related information for more details.


Thousands of British Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj in October, which involves millions of pounds being spent on travel and accommodation. Unfortunately for some Muslims, this is shattered by fraudsters who trick them into thinking they have paid for a tour package for themselves and their families. They offer fraudulent flights, accommodation and visas - with some Muslims arriving in Saudi Arabia to find that their trip does not exist and is in fact a scam.

Below are a few tips to help protect yourself and your family against Hajj Fraud:

  • Make sure you research the companies you are using; don't book anything without carrying some basic checks on the travel company.
  • Check whether the travel company you want to use is a member of a recognised body (e.g. ABTA).
  • If you are booking flights, make sure that the company is ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) protected by the Civil Aviation Authority.
  • Make sure you get all bookings confirmed in writing.
  • DO NOT pay by cash or direct bank transfer into an individual's account. This makes it extremely difficult to recover your money.

If you are the victim of Hajj Fraud, you should report this Police Scotland, either via 101 or via their online reporting form.

Please see the links in Related Information for other useful websites.