This is an article from the March Bulletin Issue written by Cheryl Ashton, Marketing Coordinator, TSG.

Pump prices have been soaring over recent months amid an international oil price surge that was instigated by the recovery in global demand after the pandemic and exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine. With the chronic rise in fuel prices contributing significantly to the current cost of living crisis, it is little wonder that the criminal community has made its presence felt through an increase in fuel thefts and card fraud, at the expense of innocent forecourt owners and their customers.

For many years, fuel stations have had to contend with countless instances of petty theft from their convenience stores, but more recently, a major upswing in motorists driving off without paying is crushing retailers’ profit margins right across the UK.

Furthermore, outdoor payment terminals, cash machines and pin pads have become attractive targets for card skimmers intending to collect and exploit customers’ card data, potentially impacting the reputation and integrity of site owners.

Now, more than ever before, there is a greater need for forecourt retailers to remain vigilant, to help protect their business and guard against fuel and data theft.

This article examines both of these insidious criminal activities in more detail and provides useful tips on how to avoid becoming the next victim.

Card skimming

Card skimming is the theft of credit and debit card data and personal identification numbers (PIN) when the user is at an automated teller machine (ATM) or point of sale (POS).

Card skimming allows thieves to steal money from accounts, make purchases and sell card information to unscrupulous third parties. Generally, the scam involves modified payment card reader hardware that fits over an existing genuine payment device or ATM. The bogus reader collects and passes on payment card information to the thief. Moreover, PINs may be captured using a hidden camera that records the user punching in their number, or through a keypad overlay that stores the keystrokes.

Prevention is the best policy

To safeguard payment devices against fraudsters, it is important to check the equipment regularly to look for skimming devices, especially if the site isn’t protected by an effective deterrent, such as surveillance cameras.

To provide a visual comparison for future checks, it is a good idea to take a photo of the terminal on installation or once satisfied that it is free from skimming devices.

Skimming devices can be quite difficult to spot, as they have been purposely designed to resemble regular card readers and may even be fitted over the whole device.

What to look for:

• Is the card reader in alignment with the panel underneath it? • Is the card reader firm or does it feel slightly loose?
• Look inside the card reader for a thin plastic circuit board.
• Is any part of it crooked or damaged?
• Are the graphics aligned and does the colour look correct?
• Are there any cables that look out of place?
• Is there any damage to the touchscreen?
• Are there any new scratches that haven’t been noticed before? • In some instances mini cameras are installed to collect PIN data

– so check for any unusual additions around the facia directly in line with the pin pad.

Carrying out these simple checks on a regular basis can help to prevent card fraud – don’t be a victim!


Drive-off incidents (often referred to as bilkings) are the biggest scourge facing the fuel retailing industry and they continue to rise at an exponential rate. Whilst some larger fuel networks accept the high probability of incurring drive-off costs, for the thousands of independent forecourts who already make a low margin on selling fuel it’s a much bigger challenge, possibly threatening the viability of some of the smaller operations.

It is always worth reviewing and, if necessary, tightening pump authorisation procedures, but briefing the staff on what to look for might be more beneficial.

Typical warning signals of a drive-off:

  • The driver is still at the wheel and the passenger is filling up;
  • Open doors or open boot to hide number plate;
  • Number plates obscured or appear altered;
  • Lights of the vehicle still switched on;
  • Engine still running;
  • Vehicle parked facing away from the kiosk towards an exit;
  • Customer trying to hide behind their own or another vehicle when filling up;
  • Motorcyclists wearing a helmet during refuelling.

Tokheim EYETM Security Solution

These are all valuable clues for retailers to consider, but what can be done to deter fuel thieves from targeting sites in the first place? Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are fast becoming today’s most cost-effective and reliable answer to crime prevention. One such option is the Tokheim EYETM Security Solution from TSG UK. This award-winning closed-circuit television (CCTV) solution was designed specifically for forecourts and has proved to be an excellent deterrent to criminals.

Tokheim EYE is an advanced high-definition (HD) camera surveillance system, activated by the slightest of movements on the forecourt, that is able to capture and store images of a suspected crime. The footage can be easily retrieved and viewed by site owners and authorised personnel, retrospectively or live, on any smart device.

The cameras are interfaced with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) software and point-of sale-equipment both at the pumps and within the kiosk. This provides a range of valuable information linked to the camera recordings. Real-time and post- event data includes details such as the pump number, receipt, staff member involved, time/date and other useful transaction inputs.

Additionally, operators can make use of the extensive filtering feature, allowing them to refine incidents by type, such as tanker delivery or unauthorised access to dispenser cabinets. With an effective pinch zoom feature, users are also able to quickly isolate and focus on specific elements of the captured frame without losing image quality.

Of course, a surefire way of preventing drive-offs is to retrofit all of the petrol pumps with pre-pay devices, a method which has already been widely adopted in many European countries. However, apart from the immediate financial impact to upgrade the pumps, many retailers are reluctant to implement pre-payment for fear of lost sales of high-profit-margin drinks and snacks from their convenience stores, which is a core part of their business.

To conclude, whilst there is no magic formula to completely eradicate forecourt crime, these small but important steps can help alleviate the problem, safeguarding fuel retailers and their customers.

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