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Katy Drivers Hit by Black Market Fuel Scam, Protect Your Card at the Pumps


May 2, 2019

By Natalie Cook Clark

Katy motorists have been getting scammed at area gas stations. Thieves have been accessing their credit card information and buying fuel to sell to black market buyers. The Katy Police Department busted one group on Tuesday, but warns that thieves have targeted gas pumps in Katy and the surrounding communities.

Lack of Victim Support

Theft rings sneak skimmers, some Bluetooth, inside gas pumps. Then they clone the credit cards and spend up to eight hours a day pumping diesel fuel into tanks for black market buyers.

Investigators have found that people are often leery after being victimized and want nothing to do with the police. Without help from the victim, many of those arrested get out on light bond. The Katy Police Department is working with the Texas Comptroller who can hit thieves with second-degree felony tax evasion charges. These charges will increase the bond and help keep these criminals in jail longer.

How to Protect Your Credit Card

  • Look out for Tampering - "They should look at the pump and ensure it doesn't appear tampered with," says Major Chad Norvell with Fort Bend County's Sheriff Office.

  • Pick a "Safe" Gas Dispenser - Use a gas dispenser that is close to the store and appears to be seen by a security camera.

  • No Debit - Run your card as a credit card and not a debit card. By running your card as debit, thieves can access your entire bank account. Either way, they can get your credit card, but in this scenario, you can minimize the impact to your account.

  • Pay with cash - If you don't use a card, you eliminate the risk of it being cloned and used in this scam.

  • There's an App - "There are also skimmer detecting apps that detect the Bluetooth frequencies that many skimmers emit," says Norvell.

How are They Stealing Gas?

Investigators report that thieves use trucks to pump up to 500 gallons of diesel into hidden tanks. In one case, a driver converted a toolbox into a fuel tank and had it in the bed of his pickup truck. Another driver used a box truck with an over-sized container under its passenger side. In the back of the truck, investigators found two large storage tanks used to carry diesel to black market buyers. Those customers include 18-wheel truckers, landscaping companies, and convenience stores.

"This is something everyone should be aware of," says Norvell.

If you see something suspicious, call 911 to be connected to your local authorities.


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