What is Estafa? How is it Different from Theft?

What is estafa? What qualifies as estafa and what does not?

Estafa is one topic in the legal world where the scope is quite big and the range is extensive. There is a need to define it in the lawful way and it will also be beneficial if we take the layman’s understanding of the word. Let us take the latter first, estafa in its simplest explanation is a type of swindling that takes on different forms. Swindling here refers to an act of obtaining money or property by fraud or deceit. So, one can be called a swindler if one commits estafa.

What is EstafaAccording to Atty. Rainier R. Mamangun, a senior partner and a founder of a full service Philippine Law firm described estafa as a criminal offense wherein a person defrauds another by the following means:

(1) by unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence;
(2) by deceit;
(3) by fraudulent means”

In other words “Estafa is committed by a person who defrauds another causing him to suffer damage, by means of unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, or of false pretense or fraudulent acts.”

It would be interesting to understand each definition by means of an example as explained by Atty. Mamangun in his website.

(1) Estafa through unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence is done by:

(a) Altering quality, quantity and substance of subject matter of contract;
(b) Misappropriating or converting goods/property of another;
(c) Taking advantage of a signature in blank

(2) Estafa through deceit or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud is done by:

(a) Using fictitious name as means of deceit;
(b) Altering quality, fineness or weight of anything pertaining to art or business;
(c) By issuing unfunded checks or postdated checks;
(d) Availing of services of hotel, inn, restaurants etc. without paying therefor.

(3) Estafa through fraudulent means is done by:

(a) Inducing another, by means of deceit, to sign any document;
(b) Resorting to some fraudulent practice to ensure success in a gambling game;
(c) Removing, concealing, or destroying, in whole or in part, any record, office files, document and other papers.

With the examples provided above, estafa has basically two requisite elements. These are fraud or deceit used by the offender against the victim and as a result, the victim suffered damages or injury. This means that the victim here greatly lose a certain amount of money, property or valuable things because he was cheated or deceived. Thus, to accuse a person with estafa, all requirements mentioned should be satisfied. If it does not satisfy the conditions, then it is not estafa. It may qualify as a theft or any other forms of crime. But the usual confusion is between theft and estafa. To help us better understand the difference of the two, the explanation given by Atty. Mamangun is clear enough to understand. It goes:

“Theft is explained as – If the offender has been given material possession of the personal property and he misappropriates the same, he is liable for the crime of THEFT.

Estafa on the other hand is explained as -If the offender has been given juridical possession and material possession of the personal property and he misappropriates the same, he is liable for the crime of ESTAFA.

Theft should not be confused with estafa. According to Chief Justice Ramon C. Aquino in his book on the Revised Penal Code, “The principal distinction between the two crimes is that in theft the thing is taken while in estafa the accused receives the property and converts it to his own use or benefit. However, there may be theft even if the accused has possession of the property. If he was entrusted only with the material or physical (natural) or de facto possession of the thing, his misappropriation of the same constitutes theft, but if he has the juridical possession of the thing, his conversion of the same constitutes embezzlement or estafa.”

It would be nice to determine the elements of theft as compared to estafa so the distinctions and differences are clear. This definition is taken from (U.S. v. De vera, 43 Phil. 1000). It explained that theft has the following elements:

(a) that there be taking of personal property;

b) that said property belongs to another;
(c) that the taking be done with intent to gain;

d) that the taking be done without the consent of the owner;

e) that the taking be accomplished without the use of violence or intimidation against persons or force against things.

Lastly, under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, estafa is punishable by law and is classified as a criminal offense. This means you can be subject to lifetime imprisonment. Thus, the things discussed and described above should bring awareness to everyone as ignorance to the law excuses no one.

41 responses to “What is Estafa? How is it Different from Theft?”

  1. Shavonne says:

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  3. Ace says:

    Hello, someone ask money from me that the person i dont barely know well.. because she is in different situation. And isend her some money. Without any garrante that she will pay it to me or she will showd up to me.. And now i cannot contact her mobile no. Is this a qualified theft or staffa?

    Looking forward for your reply

    • Poy says:

      thats Estafa

      • Margie says:

        I have friend signed contract to borrow my money 471,000 with 7% monthly interest last year January. she insist that if possible reach the due date her parent’s property will pay as her debt… But now she told me he cannot pay me anymore the said amount… What can I do to get back my money?

    • Gener V. Sanchez says:

      Somene ask me for help to to find him a buyer of his stereo for amount of 7000. So we agreed I will give him a buyer but I will add 3000 as my commision. So I find him a buyer and agreed to pay the stereo system 9000 pesos plus the buyer will pay the trip fare of The Grab Car to deliver the stereo to his place and gave this person tha payment of 9000. I told this person to send to me my commision of 2000 thru money remmitance. Until this person gave me many alibi because this person already has interest not to give me my commision until now. Is This a case of estafa ? I saved all our txt messages as evidence . Could you please enlighten me . What case should I file ? In the place where he lives he was on protection by the baranggay chairman and they are planning on reversing me. Please help

  4. arcel ramos says:

    i have been into trouble regarding money.. and we already talked in barangay and we already had an agreement on how i will return the money by installment and i already gave them 1/3 of the amount.. we signed an agreement that the 2/3 of it will be given by installment until december starting this october but they send me again an invitation to barangay with the same case.. what am i goning to do against them.. thank you..

  5. Jonalyn says:

    Can a person file estafa case against a person who did not pay her dues in a direct selling business? Thank you.

  6. Can a person file estafa casewho claimed my money without my knowledge?without my Authorization and use the money for her own benifit?and she didnt tell me that she claimed it..she intentionally did it because after i recueved the copy of the voucher i found out that its total of 34k plus and give me only 8k as my commisdions from a real estate company..pls help what should i do..thanks

  7. Eduard Aeriel N.Santos says:

    What will i do if the accused dont want to return the money.
    Or dont want to pay back worth 321k?

  8. sunshine bituin says:

    if i have credit amounting of 15000 together interest and penalties it is possible she filled estafa against me but i am willing to pay it

  9. sunshine says:

    what will we do

  10. Rea san jorge says:

    I have a credit on online loan at first i pay it on time but some of a problem i loss a job and of now im looking for a job so that i can paid it ans they telling me that they will semnd me on xourt ans they will file an stafa case against me.. But i send them a mesaage that im aaking a time to fins a job to pay them including the penalties… B

  11. She says:

    I have a online loans and i paid for partial they can a file a stafa against me?

    • Good day, i have a big problem i hope mabigyan ito ng linaw…nagloan ako sa online masyadong mataas ang interest..ang inaplyan ko 7,000 ang na net ko is 5390 at ibalik ko ng 14 days ng 7971 ang due date ko is fe.6,2020..ngayon po di ako nakabayad sa due date ko umabot ng 11961 sabi nila mag file sila ng estafa sa akin..so ginawa ko binayaran ko ng 5,000partial kahapon feb.18,2020..ano po bang abg dapat gawin dito..slamat po

  12. Chicco says:

    I borrowed 30k and already paid almost half of it. Then i got unemployed due to sickness and some issues, then i communicate with then that i cannot pay it yet, he threatened me with estafa, then just today, the other two friends of mine ran away from thier debt to, and he is asking me to pay for thier debt amounting to 75k, ehat should i do?

    • Lynn P. Noja says:


  13. Can I file a case against the co-op that they not pay the profit share and who is the responsible of that mattee

  14. Can I file a case against the co-op that they did not pay the profit share and who is the responsible of that matter

  15. Reymart says:

    Seller sold a 60sq.m.Lot he told me(buyer) he owned. Payment condition Two-gives in 2 months. I paid the 50% Dp cash we executed Deed of Sale.. He promised the Title after Downpayment..the final 50% is postdated on the end of 2nd month upon seller presented title.. But he seller fails to show title so I (buyer) cancelled the final Checke.. Then seller blocks the property from me.
    Can I sue him for ESTAFA?

  16. DeborahJade says:

    I have an online loan and they are not sec or npc registered. I owed them 4,000 pesos they said they will escalate my case to legal action. Sec 85 article 315 act

  17. DeborahJade says:

    I have an online loan and they are not sec or npc registered. I owed them 4,000 pesos they said they will escalate my case to legal action. Sec 85 article 315 act. Is it possible for them to do that???

  18. Marj says:

    I have an online loan and i am 7 days past due. I am still looking for money. Bt they told me they will file estafa if i will not pay. I am willing to pay bt i need time

  19. Shaira Garcia says:

    I buy a phone online, and i pay it in cash. the seller told me that i’ll wait for 1montb to get my order. But 1month had past, he never give me my phone. I decided to refund my money but he won’t. what will i do?

  20. judyannboragay says:

    I have online loan and they send me sms that they have the right to take legal actions. Sec 85 article 315 is this true and possible?

  21. Nikki says:

    In December 2019, a buyer and his daughter from abroad agreed that they will buy my property for 6M. Although there’s a deed of sale as a proof of my ownership of the land, The father and his daughter demanded a transfer of name to the current owner before they release their payment. Since they confirmed that they are a sure buyer I allowed them to plant from the land and act as if they already own the land. After using the land for 7 months (January to July) without any payment the father and his daughter informed me that they will no longer buy the land. Although for the last 7 months they did not experienced any flooding during the several typhoon that passed this year, they used it as an excuse not to pay the me. I showed them formal certificate as a proof from the barangay captain ang civil engineer that there is no current or future problem with the road widening but still they refused to release any payment.
    Can I sue them for estafa? If not estafa what case I can file against them. Thanks

  22. Ludy says:

    Hi. I was accused by my previous landlord of not paying the room rentals for two months April and May. So he filed estafa case through our barangay. No valid evidence presented and so the case was dismissed.
    What legal action I can take for this false accusation?

  23. Ramil cerillo says:

    Hi I just need an advice if my case is considered as stafa or theft. My partner had an accident last april 2020, and both parties agreed not to pay since the cost of the damage is the same. But then the owner of the motor which is the riders brother in law, disturbed us and we decided to help the rider and lent him 6 thousand just to pacify the real owner and to stop the turmoil. But now the rider refused to pay the whole amount and making a lot of excuses even though we have a contract signed by the rider. We also agreed to let him pay us bit by bit and we have given him so much time. But he didn’t pay anything yet. Please tell me if this is theft or stafa. Thank you so much.

  24. Ruby says:

    Hello,I just need some advice ..I am a student and i have a dance trainor who borrowed me money and he was not paying it for 4 months now . i just knew the issue about him for not paying any debts when i already give him the money. The time when i want to get the money , he have many reason about this and that .Now when i ask to the secretary of their barangay i just knew that there is already 5 existing case file that has been submitted . What should i do about this ? Can i sue them as estafa ? if not what other legal actions i can do to get my money back?

  25. Thur says:

    Hi.can I ask some advice what should I do …I have borrowed money at the bank which cost 26k$ and bec.of I unemployed due to missunderstanding to my employer then I break the contract to her.then I go to the bank to tell that I have no work and I
    show them my termination letter .one yr after they send me a letter against me that they file me an stafa case by failure to pay my debt.i am willing to pay but I don’t know how due this pandemic .hope you send me some advice on how I can clear my debt and what the best things to do thank you and God bless

  26. Felicity Lincuna says:

    I used the official reciept of my company for the service i provide without the permission once worth 32,500. i dont know that it was the official reciept i thought i used the acknowledgement reciept,now they are filling me a case of estafa.. what should i do?

  27. Roma Amor Fabia says:

    I together with 3 other persons ordered an item and paid the value of the items to a certain distributor for a sum of less than 5000, the items were not delivered to us despite several demands. What case can we file against the distributor

  28. andres calapano samantila says:

    is the failure to comply a renovation of a house would constitute estafa

  29. MJ Revillo says:

    I finance the cellphone for a friend then we have an agreement that he must down 5000 pesos the cellphone is worth 17990…. So in short i bought it for that price… However, the balance is still in the agreement that he must pay it monthly for 6 months…. Sad to say until now 6moths is lapsed but he has no payment made to me… Is this qualified for ESTAFA?

  30. Lynn P. Noja says:


  31. Bobby says:

    I have question. I own a property worth 7.5m and this person give me a downpayment of 2.8million we also signed a contract witch if they cant pay within 3 months they need to leave the property and forfiet the money. Now they pay by installment and they stop paying us for over a year because she want court of order and until now they will not leave the house. I cant do nothing my house is already damage d i been depressing. I cant even fix my fence because they dont allow me right now. Can i file a case estafa aginst them? They issuing me unfunded checkz amd postdated checks

  32. Grace says:

    Hi I really need an answer, we rented an apartment last May 2021, but sadly because of my health condition we decided not to continue renting on that particular apartment because the monthly rental fee is 5,000 and we afraid not to pay our monthly rent we left last June 2021 we wait until the monthly bills is 4,215 only for 1 month. And the caretaker tell me that he is going to put me in jail and file a case of stafa. My question is, Is 4,215 pesos is valid for stafa case? Please🙏🙏

  33. allan licopit says:

    2017 when the relative of my common law partner rented my van for 7000 to pick up her son and his schoolmates to his birthday venue but the son did not follow the arrangement instead went to other venues before going the his birthday venue in marilao resort. I left my house at 2pm to avoid traffic and we reached the resort by 8pm. Since im tired i ask the payment but instead the mother go to her car and sleep and I waited for so long that causes me to get angry ang call again the mother to ask for the payment but instead of payment the classmates of her son and the mothers relative ganged me up and did not pay for the rental. I filed it in the nearest barangay for blotter. May I know if I can still file a case against them (mother and her son) for physical injury and estafa for not paying the rental considering the incident happen last 2017. Please advice

  34. Ronnie colorado says:

    Stafa po ba ang tawag sa utang na ndi nman tinatakasan,ndi tinataguan?kya lng ndi po nababayaran pero patuloy ang pakikipag communicate ng umutang sa mga pinagkakautangan?

  35. Rose says:

    Hello po, anu po ang kaso sa taong pinagkatiwalaan ko ng pera ko pra matulongan ko sya….in the end yng capital after 3 yrs.gsto ko ng kunin ang sabi nya nagastos na raw nya at nangako na magbayad monthly pro hindi naman po natupad…at wla na akong communication sa kanya dahil blinock na nya ako…what should I do.

  36. LITO CAS says:


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