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Let's name the suspected stealing friend, Mark. Value of missing items is around 20$.

I have been told from my other friends that Mark has been known to be around when things go missing, with a couple situations where he was straight up known to have taken things.

I trust my other friends almost without a doubt. I left a few things on the table in the main area of the house and after the friend had come over the items were missing. When I confronted Mark asking if he had seen my stuff he replied: "Nope, I didn't even know that was there".

I would like to get the items back but it isn't the money that bothers me, it's the fact that I can't trust someone I thought to be my friend.

He owes my group of friends a collective 600$ that he doesn't seem to plan on ever paying back. None of my friends want to say anything but this has gone on too long. He is using our friendship for his own gains and I want to get to the bottom of this regardless the outcome, with that in mind, I want to do this in a smart constructive manner.

Question: How do I approach my friend about the missing items, when I highly suspect he has stolen them?

  • I've deleted some comments. Comments are for improving the question and asking for clarification; answers should go in an answer. – HDE 226868 Aug 16 '17 at 21:15
  • Could you give some location data? – user288 Aug 28 '17 at 19:09
85

There's an old saying...

If you lend someone $20 and you never see them again, it's $20 well spent.

I think that's where you find yourself with Mark, except for the fact that you're still hanging out with him... Your best and only realistic option is to take it as a loss and learn from it.

If you know someone is a thief and you continue to invite them over you can't really act surprised when things go missing. Likewise, if you know someone doesn't pay their debts and you loan them money, you can't really act surprised when they don't pay you back.

Whether you have conclusive proof or not doesn't really matter. You don't trust Mark. Confronting him won't get your stuff back. So, all that's left is to take it as a loss and learn from it.

The lesson here is that if someone has a well-earned reputation for this sort of thing, don't wait for them to do it to you, or wait for them to do it again. Trust your instincts and stop hanging out with them.

  • 8
    I'm downvoting for various reasons: The quote is not at all appropriate here. Nobody "lent" anything to anybody. The friend hasn't disappeared. the OP seems to be of the mindset that he wants some way to verify wrongdoing before accusation. Not trusting someone isn't enough to defriend them without proof. We don't know if its a "well-earned" reputation at all. From the OP all we know is that it's hearsay. This answer is a reasonable answer for a completely different situation. I wonder if you posted it in the wrong spot? – Octopus Aug 16 '17 at 18:35
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    @Octopus "He owes my group of friends a collective 600$ that he doesn't seem to plan on ever paying back." – apaul Aug 16 '17 at 20:09
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    @Octopus it may just be me, but I generally avoid hanging out with people I don't trust... – apaul Aug 16 '17 at 20:11
  • I like to be sure that I can't trust them first. it's not fair to them (or yourself) if you act on a false suspicion. The question was, "what do I do if I suspect... " – Octopus Aug 17 '17 at 16:26
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    @Offirmo I disagree with your last sentence. Better to ditch a bad friend and spend the time and energy you get back by making new, good friends. Plus, OP seems to have other friends, so better to focus on and nourish those friendships. But I'd first talk to Mark, because all OP's information seems to be second hand. – MlleMei Apr 5 at 9:19
21

He's innocent until proven guilty.

It's possible that his presence was merely a coincidence, or maybe you or someone else just misplaced those items and forgot about it. To directly deal with him, you currently have no absolute evidence. People don't like being accused of wrongdoing, and it's highly unlikely that he'll confess just like that.

What you can first do, is an exhaustive search for the missing items. Leave no leaf unturned.

And if that didn't work out, do bring this matter up casually, not in an accusatory tone, preferably when there's at least one other mutual friend present so that your questions aren't targeting him specifically.

I had kept some things here and I can't find them now. Have you seen them?

Do you remember anyone else being here?

If in case you come across the things, do let me know as soon as you can.

And if that didn't work out, and since you still have no concrete proof against him, it would simply be best that you protect yourself from future thefts rather than baselessly accuse this friend and cause a rift in your friend circle. Since this time it was a considerably insignificant theft, let this one slide.

You mention that he owes collectively around 600$ to your group of friends and that he shows no signs of paying it back. You also mention that there are a couple situations where he was straight up known to have taken things.

Again, keep this history in mind and exercise caution next time he's around, or comes asking to borrow money. Lock away your valuables before his next visits. Or setup some security cams, if necessary. Do make sure it's legal in your region first.

It's actually better to stay away from such friends you no longer trust to be around you or your belongings.


Kleptomania is another possibility

I am well aware of a friend of mine struggling with kleptomania, which is "a recurrent urge to steal, typically without regard for need or profit."
Oxford Dictionaries

In such cases, keep in mind that "Kleptomania is a mental health condition, not a character flaw, and approach your loved one [or friend] without blame or accusation."
Mayo Clinic

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    "He's innocent until proven guilty." This isn't a criminal trial. The OP is entitled to walk away from the friendship based on his suspicions alone, it's his choice. – Will Appleby Apr 5 at 12:17
14

He owes my group of friends a collective 600$ that he doesn't seem to plan on ever paying back. None of my friends want to say anything but this has gone on too long. He is using our friendship for his own gains and I want to get to the bottom of this regardless the outcome, with that in mind, I want to do this in a smart constructive manner.

What does "constructive" mean? If it means you all get your money (and stuff) back, or he stops stealing, or he 'fesses up, there is no smart, constructive manner to do these things. If what you believe is true, they won't happen. Also, if your feelings aren't shared by your friends (you say, "None of my friends want to say anything..."), you might be alone in this. Being right doesn't guarantee that your friends will go along with you.

If you're sincere in "get(ting) to the bottom of this regardless of the outcome", well, you kind of already have, haven't you? Your rock-solid belief of his guilt is all you need to determine the outcomes you can realistically effect, which are:

  • You stop being his friend and cut him out of your life.
  • You accept that he's a thieving mooch but you like him anyway so you will keep associating with him, but watch your stuff when he's around.
  • You limit your contact with him to when he's hanging out with your friend group.

I don't see any other options. You can only control your own behavior. You can't force your friends to agree with you, and you can't make this person be someone he's not.

10

There is a lot of advice, and I can only give my version.

I've had a friend who was accused of stealing videogames from us. We all were suspicious about him, and just like you, we did not ask him about it. We simply had no hard evidence, and we were afraid that if we are wrong, we lost him as a friend. Just like you, I trusted all the other friends, and I wasn't so sure about this guy.

The only solution was to catch him red handed, but we didn't want to risk losing another videogame. Also around the 2000's, we did not have easy and cheap camera solutions like we have now. Eventually, the friendship ended, because we lost interest and trust in him. A few months later another friend - let's call him friend no. 2 - bailed on us, out of the blue.

A few years ago I received a picture from my best friend, showing friend 2 having a garage sale. Surprisingly he was selling literally every videogame we lost.

Turns out it wasn't friend 1, but friend 2 who stole our games. When we evaluated this, it turned out that the rumour of friend 1 stealing, was spread by friend 2. He turned out to be the thief. So, no matter how much you trust someone, things can take a weird turn. We did not take any action, because it was too long ago and we did not want to open a can of arguments. We lost a friend because of early judgement.

I don't understand why a collective amount of $600 !!! was lent to your friend though, because at a certain point you had to stop lending money in order to have a chance to get it back. In this case, there's a little blame in every one of you. There is nothing wrong to have a stern chat with him about this, though.

But if you want to lose your friends (and eventually your lent money) then it would not be wise to confront him being a thief. He will just leave you guys.

Just make sure, when he is around, that you will not leave him alone. If you can't, a camera might help because when you really want to confront him with this, make sure you have proof. (Also make a copy of the footage in case he steals the recording.) This proof also helps you for him not bailing on you, since you can make it clear that you are filing a report with the local police department, if he tries to run away. And to be honest, if you have evidence of your friend stealing, is he still your friend?

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    You make a great point and I have leaned the most towards your answer in this situation. I will continue to be his friend and trust him but I will be way more careful where I leave my possessions. Thank you for your input. – LampPost Aug 30 '17 at 20:04
  • Glad i could help! – Tomas Aug 31 '17 at 23:14
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    Be careful with the video recording, don't take it to the police until you 100% sure it can be used as an evidence, because probably it can't. And if it can't be used, your 'friend' may actually report YOU to the police, saying that you violated his privacy (or whatever they call the videos taken without person's consent). – user2851843 Dec 20 '17 at 13:38
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Short answer: Sometimes people fear judgement and will stop stealing if given a way to fix it. This won't apply to all people, but the friendship with Mark could possibly be salvaged if he thinks you'll forgive and let go (even if it's done indirectly). From personal experience I had this problem with a friend. A group of us regularly gathered for Vampire: the Masquerade (role play game) at my (parents) house. Ages range from 11th grade to recently graduated high school. We played in my basement room.

I noticed things (small things, like zippo lighters) started to disappear. I tossed my room looking for them, then I confronted all of them as a group. "Has anyone seen my zippo?" As expected, no one had, but I kept asking every week. Eventually I added "Not judging, just want the zippo back."

Shortly after, it turned up on my bed. Since I sleep in my bed I was pretty sure I would have noticed it if it had been 'lost' there for months.

I thanked them as a group for bringing it back (even though they all denied it), and the theft stopped after that.

Note some things never came back, but the thief knew I noticed and did stop taking stuff. I remained friends with everyone for a few years after until we all grew apart with college and jobs and general growing up.

2

He is using our friendship for his own gains and I want to get to the bottom of this regardless the outcome, with that in mind, I want to do this in a smart constructive manner.

Constant stealing is a behavioral symptom of larger problems such as drug addiction or psycho-social disorders. This likely isn't something that started over night. If this friend isn't someone you really care about the best advice would be to cut them loose, and NOW.

If they are someone you care about, however, you have some big problems! It's very likely this friend is stealing to supplement some kind of addiction. My father was addicted to heroin and would steal out of my house to buy drugs. Anything not nailed down would be gone. There is zero thought that goes through the mind of an addict before taking items. They will just use up their welcome at one set of family members & friends and keep moving on.

If you care about this person then do a little bit of homework on their family and home life. Either, 1) this is a shock to their family and they will be concerned and help, or 2) this has been going on forever and they cut them loose to steal/depend on others.

For my father, the only thing that finally worked was to kick him out on the street. I literally had to remove my own father out of my house and he slept on the front lawn. After being on his own completely for a few months he entered a recovery house (not DETOX) with others in the same situation. Members of the house have to work and pay rent, nobody has a free ride. This was a decade ag

1

The camera is the best idea as long as it is not hiding in something he could steal, like a Nanny-cam teddy bear. Think Geek would have these but also trick electronics that would let you home into their location once stolen.

I once painted nail polish on the backs of some coins I was sure would be stolen by my employee. On asking for some change later that day he gave me just what I was afraid of. He thought loose change from someone else's desk was up for grabs. Lost the job for loose change. An expensive mistake. Note: Ours is service oriented company and can tolerate no such behavior.

Innocent till proven guilty is a great legal standard but other's experience and your own count more in this situation. I think you have enough to tell him at empty his pockets (once). He should be made aware that he is not trusted and will not be left alone around anything of value.

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    I know the title is a general 'what to do?' question, but the more substantive question in the body of the text is is 'how do I approach my friend', not 'how do I catch my friend'. – Spagirl Jan 9 '18 at 15:32

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