The crisis caused by the increase in gasoline prices has generated a new crime very similar to those occurring in Latin American countries such as Venezuela: thieves steal fuel to resell it in the rest of the country.
Although in Venezuela this type of theft occurred due to the scarcity of gasoline, in the United States it is happening due to the high prices and is becoming a business for retail thieves.
A Fox News report revealed that the theft occurs in two ways, by physically removing it from gas stations and other vehicles, or by hacking into the retailers’ systems. The most affected are the owners of the gas stations.
The modus operandi for stealing gasoline
According to the Virginia Police Department, thieves use devices to illegally access gas stations and then sell gasoline at a lower price than what is offered on the streets.
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“It was determined that thousands of dollars worth of gasoline was stolen from the business over several days,” the Police Department notes.
Another modus operandi used by criminals consists of cyber attacking service stations, where they manage to modify prices and obtain fuel at very low costs.
Thieves “getting access to the pump and…either somehow overriding the system, whether physically or electronically, and resetting prices to be extremely low, or keeping that the transaction open where multiple people can go through the same transaction,” explained Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS.)
He adds that another mode of theft occurs with the extraction of gasoline from the subway storage tank using a modified vehicle.
The Las Vegas Police Department has also warned of physical gasoline thefts.
“These thieves are very sophisticated. They will take a truck that looks just like a normal truck, like a freeway service truck, and there is intricate pipping inside them,” Lt. Jeff Swanbeck of the LVMPD’s Financial Crimes Section told KVVU.
“Unfortunately, with the rise in fuel prices, we have an increase in fuel theft,” Salt Lake City Fire Chief Tony Allred also said.
The national average gas price was $4.91 per gallon over the weekend, with some states in the West and Northeast posting prices above $5 and $6 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). In California, the average was $6.33 on Saturday.
With President Joe Biden, gas prices skyrocketed overnight and have left Americans paying an average of $1.82 more than just a year ago, when the price was $3.05, according to AAA.