While the definitions of fraud and theft will vary by jurisdiction, the connection between the two is somewhat universal. Typically, fraud is defined as using deception, or an act of deception, for personal or financial gain. Theft is generally defined as taking someone else's property without consent while meaning to deprive the owner of its value. Often, a theft is accomplished by the use of fraud and/or an act of fraud is also considered a theft.
Both fraud and theft have a monetary or personal gain to their essential elements. There are many different types of fraud. Common examples of fraud include benefit and insurance fraud, securities and tax fraud, and identity theft. In each one of these examples, a deceptive act on the part of the perpetrator eventually leads to a personal or financial gain.
Benefit fraud, for instance, is accomplished by providing false information on an application for government benefits, such as food stamps or cash assistance. If successful, the perpetrator gains the benefit of the government assistance. Insurance fraud may be perpetrated by filing a claim for a loss that never happened with the end result being that the claimant receives money for an unsubstantiated loss.
In each of the fraud examples, the perpetrator gained something of value as a result of the fraud. Sometimes, that may amount to theft as well. Many benefit fraud cases are filed as both fraud and theft charges, for example. The benefits that the applicant received did not belong to him or her, which means he or she has taken something that did not belong to him or her with the intent to deprive the government of the value.
Identity theft is another crime that often has elements of both fraud and theft as well. In order to steal someone's identity, an act of deception is often used, whether over the internet or in person. Many jurisdictions consider a person's identity to be "property" for the purpose of charging a defendant with a crime. Therefore, stealing a person's identity can be both fraud and theft in many jurisdictions.
Whether or not a person can actually be convicted of both fraud and theft will depend on the jurisdiction where the charges are filed. Because the crimes often share very similar elements necessary to prove the crime, a person may ultimately only be able to be convicted of one. Generally, both fraud and theft are felonies, meaning a person can face a sentence that includes incarceration if convicted.