New Fuel Theft Method Discovered

The Texas Food and Fuel Association sent members an alert.

February 26, 2024

Authorities have uncovered a new method of fuel theft that allows thieves to pump fuel for free or for pennies. The Texas Food and Fuel Association (TFFA) sent an alert warning its members of the new robbery method.

The TFFA shares photos and additional guidance here.

Information on the crime comes from the Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center (TFCIC), which investigates and tracks criminal activity—including payment card skimmers and fuel dispenser manipulation.

First reported in Oil Express, the method is a new twist on pump manipulation that doesn’t directly touch the pulser, a component that controls how the dispenser measures and displays fuel volume and cost.

According to the alert from the TFFA, suspects get inside the fuel pump cabinet and manipulate the valve coil wire with taps. They appear to be using a power source, such as two 9-volt batteries in series, to disrupt the 24-volt valve.

“By powering the valve with an external power source and with the prestart initiated, suspects can simply pull the nozzle and dispense fuel freely,” the alert said. “If the prestart is turned off, the suspects can go to the other side of the dispenser and authorize the grade for which they are powering the valve. This activates the STP motor and again fuel will pump freely from the nozzle.”

The TFFA noted that pulser shields will not deter this fuel theft method, as suspects hit the pulser wires at the valve board, which is not covered by the shield. Additionally, it was stated that most door security measures will not stop this method and ceasing power to the dispenser will only encourage suspects to go to another dispenser.

According to the TFCIC, this type of fuel theft is on the rise and following previous crime trends, may catch on quickly among crime rings as suspects share information.