Why Fuel Theft Is Still a Problem (And What You Can Do About It)

One of the greatest challenges in any industry is combating revenue lost to criminal activity; the fuel industry is certainly no exception. While petrol might not be the first item that comes to mind when you think of things that are commonly shoplifted, fuel theft is a growing problem that costs convenience stores and service stations a grand total of about $66 million per year. The available police data suggests that the number of customers who fuel up and drive off without paying increased from around 800 per month to around 1,500 per month between 2016 and 2018. And as fuel prices continue to rise, the problem is only further exacerbated.

The Search for a Solution
Curbing these losses has proved difficult so far. Asking the customer to call someone to help them out or leave some kind of collateral until they come back to settle up are common tactics, but these methods are unreliable and only possible if the customer admits they can’t pay.

When they simply drive off without attempting to pay at all, the problem becomes even more difficult to solve. Attempting to forcibly stop the culprit puts both employees and customers in danger, and tracking them down afterward can be a slow process when the police are hesitant to involve themselves, since failure to pay is technically considered a civil, not criminal, matter.

Requiring customers to pre-pay at the pump is a potential solution, but most petrol station owners and other industry professionals feel that a pre-pay system would ultimately do as much harm as good. Allowing customers to pre-pay eliminates the need to go into the store, which means station owners still see a loss of revenue.

According to former AACS CEO Jeff Rogut, a prepay system has already been tried in Canada, where it resulted in a 30 percent hit to in-store sales numbers. Pay-at-the-pump systems are also extremely vulnerable to fraud. In the United States, where pre-payment for fuel is common, fuel pumps have become a major target for card skimming, which puts honest customers at risk every time they use a pump.

ServoPro Failure to Pay
If you’ve been racking your brain trying to come up with a viable solution to your station’s fuel theft problem, you should know that ServoPro provides a Failure to Pay service that could be the answer you are searching for.

ServoPro has already helped its members recover thousands of dollars in unpaid fuel purchases through their debt recovery service. All that’s needed is a list of your site names, addresses, and phone numbers, and ServoPro will organize a failure to pay form that can help defend your business against the ever-growing issue of fuel theft.

What Else Can Be Done?
ServoPro has you covered when a failure to pay happens, but petrol station employees play an important part in combating the issue as well. Petrol theft isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved by security cameras and vigilant attendants alone, but they can decrease the risk that fuel theft poses to your petrol station and make the process of tracking down and recovering lost revenue faster and easier.

  • Stay alert. Employees, especially driveway attendants, should be aware of their surroundings at all times. Security footage can be reviewed later to obtain a license plate number or physical description of the vehicle, but the surest way to spot fuel theft is by always paying attention to what’s going on at the pumps. Watch for customers engaging in suspicious behavior such as tampering with license plates or attempting to conceal themselves or their plates from security cameras.
  • Be proactive about keeping all security cameras in good working order, and check the footage regularly.
  • Write down the license plate number of every car that pulls up to purchase fuel, and cross out each plate number when the customer pays. That way, you’re sure to have a record of any customer that drives off, even if security cameras didn’t catch their license plate.
  • Don’t try to physically confront fuel thieves. This puts employees and any nearby customers in danger. Besides the obvious danger posed by a moving car, there is the possibility that the offender has a more extensive criminal background than just fuel theft. It’s often discovered after-the-fact that the culprit is driving a stolen vehicle or is wanted by police for other illegal activity. Don’t take the risk; gather all the information you can safely obtain from the situation, and then let the police or a service like ServoPro track down the vehicle and take things from there.

If you’re not already a member you can sign up for a ServoPro membership here. You’ll get access to the Failure to Pay service in addition to an abundance of other useful resources!

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