I know nobody would want to criminally prosecute someone over this, but suppose my friend and I decide to go to a restaurant on the premise that my friend pays. When we get to the restaurant, though, my friend thinks that the prices are too expensive (I chose the restaurant) and instead of paying, claims that they left their wallet at home and wants me to pay. Would this technically be fraud?

According to the criteria from ohwilleke at What is the differences between lying and fraud? (from a cursory glance),

  1. They clearly lied about the wallet's location.
  2. They wanted me to pay for it.
  3. I believed my friend.
  4. I thought my friend was trustworthy, so I had good reason to believe them.
  5. I had to pay the bill.
  • You should change the title question, because you asserted that it is a "minor" issue, so it is not material, so it is not fraud. The question is self-answering with that stipulation.
    – user6726
    Jul 2, 2021 at 23:49
  • So funny, we cite ohwilleke as the authority. :)))
    – kisspuska
    Jul 3, 2021 at 2:50
  • A young lady told this story on UK TV, she went on a blind date, and after a very nice meal her date claimed he had forgotten his wallet. She went to the bathroom, climbed out of a window, and disappeared :-)
    – gnasher729
    Jul 3, 2021 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


Just because you consider the matter as a whole minor if each criterion of fraud is present, and you are harmed, it is fraud. Things we may consider less much of substance, like one’s time, is growing to be recognized as loss, but in this hypo, there would be undeniably pecuniary damages, and it only depends on you to assert that that loss is material to you.

In California at least, since this would most realistically be a small claims court matter, if you were to assert that you consider it a “minor issue”, you wouldn’t negate the standing on fraud, but potentially created grounds for dismissal/denial in accord with a maxim of jurisprudence:

Civ. Code § 3533. The law disregards trifles.

I couldn’t opine on the criminal law form of fraud, but I would assume that the criteria are more stringent and is supposed to be subject to a higher burden of proof — “beyond reasonable doubt” as opposed to civil bars of proof.

  • 1
    For criminal prosecution there are public interest considerations: like whether it’s worth expending the investigative and prosecutorial resources for a crime of a few hundred dollars at best.
    – Dale M
    Jul 3, 2021 at 1:36
  • @Dale M Indeed!
    – kisspuska
    Jul 3, 2021 at 5:45

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