What is estafa? How can a situation qualify as estafa?

Estafa is one of those topics that are hard to define because the scope is broad. It is helpful if we are going to take both the legal definition and what it means in layman’s terms. In simpler terms, estafa is a type of swindling. Swindling is defined as obtaining the money or property by using fraud or deceit. So if one commits swindling, he also commits estafa 

As defined in law, estafa is a crime when a person defrauds another person by doing any of the following: abusing trust or confidence, deceit, or any other fraudulent means. In other words, estafa is when a person defrauds another person causing the latter to suffer damage, by abusing confidence, lying, or any other forms of deceit.  

To give you scenarios of possible estafa cases based on unfaithfulness or abuse of confidence, it is possible through: 

  1. Making changes on important subject of a contract; 
  2. Taking commodities /property of another person; 
  3. Signing a blank signature space reserved not for him 

On the other hand, estafa through deceit done before or during the commission of the fraud can be exemplified by the following scenarios: 

  1. Using fictitious name to deceive somebody; 
  2. Altering the quality or weight of anything; 
  3. Issuing post-dated checks that is unfunded; 
  4. Using services from a hotel, restaurants, inns, etc., without paying 

Other forms of fraudulent means that can be considered as estafa includes: 

  1. Deceiving a person to sign a contract; 
  2. Devising fraudulent strategies to win a game; 
  3. Destroying or concealing, in part or in whole, any important documents 

Based on the examples above, there are two elements that need to be present before we can consider the case estafa. First, there is fraud or deceit used by the offender against the victim, second, the victim suffered damages or injury. Damages or injury can be in the form of losing money, property or valuables. Ordinary form of cheating where the victim did not suffer damage cannot be considered estafa. The two elements need to be present; if one is missing, it’s not estafa. It can be another form of crime such as theft. 

Estafa is one of the most common crimes committed when dealing business. Some people would deceive another person to gain material wealth. Be careful when transacting business with other people, especially with complete strangers. If you don’t know what you are doing, it is better if you will consult your fbar lawyers first.

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