Stealing involves the use of stealth and is the art of taking someone else's object for one's own. A character's effectiveness in stealing is governed by the Sneak skill, and in Morrowind and Oblivion, their Agility skill as well. If the player is witnessed stealing an item, a bounty may be placed on them and all armed witnesses become hostile. Otherwise, they may just comment on your theft. If there are any Hold guards present, they may try to apprehend you and if arrest wasn't refused, all items marked as "Stolen" are confiscated.
All Stolen items are marked with a red hand icon . In Skyrim, it is marked with "Stolen", in the Items menu and its name is in red text when withdrawn from a container. Honest merchants do not buy stolen goods.
Removing the Stolen Item Flag
Removing the stolen flag can be done several ways:
- Putting the item into a container (chest, wardrobe, etc.) then having Follower loot container:
After stealing an item, (either outside of a container, or from a container - i.e. chest, drawer, wardrobe, end table, etc.), or if you already have an item marked as "stolen", you can simply store it in a container and then proceed to have your Follower loot the container of the contents to remove the "stolen" tag off of the item. This would seem to be the quickest (and perhaps easiest) way to remove the "stolen" tag off of items that one might wish to sell or use, otherwise.
- Selling the item to a fence:
When the item is sold to a fence, the flag is removed and you can buy the item back. However, the merchant will sell the item for a higher price than you sold it, and can become quite expensive.
- Returning the item to the owner:
Due to the way the game handles stolen items, the stolen flag is only applied when the item is taken by someone who is not the owner. The flag is removed when the item is back in the possession of the owner, such as in the owner's body. Taking an item from a body does not count as stealing, though you most likely have to have the owner's body available before using this method.
Note: This method does not always work in houses where multiple NPCs live, because of how the interior area ownership is handled. Merchants have their items flagged as owned by 'someone else' (most likely the NPC accompanying them) to prevent them from being sold by the merchant, while multiple-resident housing has unclear ownership.
- Enchanting the item:
By using a Sigil Stone or an Altar of Enchanting, you can enchant the stolen item and it will become an entirely new item, clear of the stolen flag. This only works on armor, clothing, jewellery, and weapons. This does not work in Skyrim.
- Mix the item into a potion:
Potions made from stolen ingredients are not considered stolen.
- Smithing materials:
Any stolen materials (Leather, Ingots, Ore, Leather strips, Daedra Hearts etc.) used in Smithing will not result in the resulting armor or weapon being classed as stolen.
- Have your follower pick it up
If you order your follower to steal an Item, it will not appear in thier inventory as stolen. However, if they are seen doing it, you will recieve a bounty. This is a useful way to launder goods after you steal them. Just go somewhere private, drop your stolen goods, have your follower pick them up, and then get them back from her.
- Placing and killing
If you pickpocket an NPC, you can place the stolen item or items on them than exit, kill them, then loot their body for the stoln item or items that you put on them. This is a good method with the Dark Brotherhood as you can place the items on the target before you kill them.
- The fencing trick does not work with keys.
- Having the Wax Key perk (requires Lockpicking level 50) makes copies of keys which are not classed as stolen.
- Books found laying around marked with a red "Open book" are directly read rather than placed into your inventory. Since you are not actually taking the item in your possession, the game does not register it as stealing, unless pressing the Action key again to take it.
- In Skyrim, if you steal an item from a house (i.e. a book) and then proceed to drop it, the owner of the house may return the item to you. You can steal items from a house and keep them without them being marked as stolen.
- In Skyrim, if you place an object around the owners head, (such as a pot, basket, or any similar object), you are considered to be out of their sight and can therefore steal items within their close proximity without much fear of being caught.
- A stolen horse will walk away from you when not being ridden. If there are any NPCs nearby, a bounty may be place on you when taking it.
- Stolen items remain stolen items when traded with a follower.
- In Skyrim, any stolen arrows in a quiver will result in the entire stack being flagged as stolen.
- Improving an item using the Smithing skill will not remove the stolen flag.
- If you are caught with any kind of bounty, your stolen items can be found in the "evidence" chest in the prison.