Forecourt fuel thefts rise as petrol prices soaron June 11, 2022 at 2:32 pm

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There has been an increase in motorists driving off without paying or claiming they have no wallet.

Person at petrol pumpImage source, Getty Images

Rising petrol prices have led to an increase in fuel thefts from petrol station forecourts, according to new figures from industry experts.

Petrol prices hit record highs last week, with the cost of filling a typical family car passing £100.

Forecourt Eye, which works with 1,000 garages in the UK, said there was a 39% increase in non-payments since January.

These included motorists driving off without paying or claiming to have forgotten their wallet.

Nick Fisher, CEO of the digital debt recovery company that traces and track non-payers, said: “This is not a good thing for anyone as more theft is going on.”

He said forecourt theft had been rising month on month since Christmas, with a 19.5% spike in January and February, which he linked to the rising cost of fuel.

This was followed by another rise of 4.5% in March, 8% in April and a further 7% in May.

The soaring price of fuel is down to supply issues caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a weak exchange rate between the US dollar and the UK’s sterling.

Mr Fisher said: “At the moment, we’re seeing a spike of people claiming to forget their wallets. Some people are trying to get away with it.

“Then there are people who fill up, they go buy a coffee and don’t pay for the fuel. And then there’s the others who put in £30 [of fuel] and just drive off.”

The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) is a non-profit organisation that campaigns to reduce fuel crime on UK forecourts.

It said that in the first week of June, incidents of unpaid fuel increased by 22% compared to May.

Claire Nichol, its executive director, said there is “no doubt” that there is a link between rising fuel prices and increased incidents of forecourt fuel crime.

“Motorists claiming to have no means of payment account for 70% of incidents which re-emphasises a shift away from drive-off incidents,” she added.

The AA’s Luke Bosdet said some people are stealing fuel out of desperation while others are organised and doing it to profit.

He explained: “The thief is someone who relies on their car, motorbike or scooter to get to or go about their work but their finances have been broken by the cost of living crisis. Stealing fuel then becomes an act of desperation.

“And then you have the organised thieves who see the high price of an essential item as highly lucrative and easily sold on.

“They will have their preferred method of stealing the fuel, whether that’s putting an extra tank on the back seat and then taking the fuel from forecourts, or taking jerry cans and cutting fuel lines on cars to drain tanks in the street.

The latter will know which cars are easiest to steal from and target those.”

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