I am considering taking a company to small claims court over the "theft" of an amount of money that I will not disclose here. I put money into my account in the form of cryptocurrency (the company is a cryptocurrency exchange), and they locked my account with the money in it. I was locked out because I am a minor and needed a parental form signed, not for any other/malicious reasons. I then completed the parental forms and submitted them, with no response and no return of my account. This was over a month ago. I would like to file against them for theft, but I first want to be sure that this is legally correct and I'm not just filing a useless claim. If the company has had my money for a little over a month, could that be considered theft or some other form of actionable offense?

Thanks in advance!

  • It seems it wouldn't be theft, but embezzlement. Not that it makes much difference in practice. "Theft" is taking something that is yours. "Embezzlement" is rightfully receiving something that is yours, but not returning it when asked for it.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 13, 2017 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Theft is not defined in terms of how long you have someone's money. The most important element of theft is that there be an intent to permanently deprive. Theft is a crime, prosecuted and punished by the government, which does not result in compensation to the victim (though if there is actual physical property involved that the police recover, it will be returned to the owner).

There are a number of ways to spin your complaint, but in small claims court you don't have to follow the rituals of ordinary civil courts. The company has a contractual obligation to do something ("give you credits" or something like that) in exchange for your money; in not making good on their offer, they have breached the contract, and you can either request specific performance, or a return of your money. A defense that they could use is "We're working on it", which isn't entirely unreasonable though is starting to sound on the outer edges of unreasonable. The court could then order them to give you the money, which they might do, or you might have to go through other hoops to get the order enforced.

Small claims court is sufficiently informal that I don't think that your case would be dismissed if you technically mis-state the legal offense. It would be enough to state as clearly and simply as possible why you think they owe you money.

  • 1
    It is a breach of contract or a tort so there is no "offence", just a "wrong"
    – Dale M
    Aug 13, 2017 at 20:20
  • I'm not using "offenc/se" in the technical British sense, I'm using it in the informal way the OP is apparently using it.
    – user6726
    Aug 13, 2017 at 21:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.