Do a lot of people get away with gas theft in this manner?

Note: I am not encouraging, promoting or suggesting the theft of gasoline!!!

Whilst reading the thread about sanwich boards and gas theft (HERE) , it occured to me: couldn’t someone just put on a fake license plate, go get the gas, and drive off without paying? The cameras capture the license plate number, but if it didn’t match it would be of no use. Hell, a dastardly criminal could even stick the fake plate on OVER his regular plate with double-sided tape, then pull into a secluded area after stealing the gas and take the plate off, driving away without incident.

I personally would not try this: my vehicle, a customized 4Runner with many exterior modifications, is far too distinctive, but someone driving a nondescript car would be harder to catch.

Is said scheme frequently attempted, or does this fall into the ‘Skycrane’ category of foolhardy crime?

Out here in California, I don’t remember the last time I could just pump the gas and then pay. It’s always pay first.

I visited Alabama last year and I remarked right away that it was pump first, then pay. My kid said they have more guns there and ain’t afraid to use them. She was only half kidding.

It must differ by region.

How do you pay if you don’t know how much your going to spend?

That’s EXACTLY what sucks about it. You must either pre-pay for an amount that you know will fit, leaving yourself with less than a full tank, or over-pay and make a second trip to the cashier to get your change. The third option is to use a credit or debit card and pay at the pump.

I must confess 20 years ago I was doing “Europe on the cheap” I did some not so god things…well not me but “them that I was with:D” . I apologise to that petrol station in Germany and the half a dozen cars that didn’t have key locked fuel tanks in Greece, Yugoslavia and Switzerland.

I was a bad bad tourist.

Never heard of the extra plate scam. I think the trouble might be that the original owner of the plate could be traced, and if that is you then you’ve had it. Getting hold of an untracable plate might be tough. We had a local scam at our local supergrocery-gas station chains. Seems that the pay at the pump in their stations would let you buy gas by scanning your drivers license (we have a magnetic strip on our drivers licenses). They thought they were getting away free- except that the store had a record of all the drivers licenses of those that tried that scam.

Worked as a cashier at a gasstation for about 2 years. Wasn’t too uncommon to have that happen. A plate number we take down (with the make,color, year) returning back as not being right. The most common I saw is the throw the pump down and scream out of the parking lot while the cashier has their back turned.

I don’t have a cite for this, only a theory. I wonder if most of those people don’t pull up to the gas station intending to drive off, but pump several dollars of gas before realizing they had forgotten their money elsewhere.

Almost all gas stations here now require you to pay before pumping. The question of how much do you pay before you know how much it will be was answered for me last week when I was asked to leave a picture ID instead of pre-paying. I fueled up, payed, and got my ID card back.

Pre-paying sucks. Most of the suburbs around here don’t make you pre-pay yet, but the closer to the Detroit border you get, the higher the frequency of “pre-pay after dark” signs you start to see.

BobLibDem mentioned a malfunction that occurred at a chain called Meijer. This “malfunction” could actually be tuned-up into an advantage. Instead of making cardless people pre-pay, just let them swipe their licenses through the machine before paying cash afterwards. Yeah, yeah, determined oafs will steal ID’s or borrow them from unsuspecting friends. But these could easily be blacklisted.

The one and only time I pumped more gas than I had cash (the difference was less than a dollar) I explained to the clerk, who laughed it off. I quickly went home, got the exact change, and went back to give it to the clerk, who laughed again. He could laugh all he wants, my daddy didn’t raise me to be a thief.

That will depend on your state. Missouri DLs have nothing to swipe.

In the UK you now need to show your V5 (vehicle registration document) in order to have license plates made up, so you can’t get a plate made up for a vehicle you don’t own unless:

  • you steal the plates off another car first (in which case you’ve already committed a crime, of course there’s nothing to stop you committing another) or

  • you steal the car (ditto) or

  • you steal a V5 registration document (ditto)

So, in summary, someone could do it, but they’d be breaking the law and probably would have had to break the law previously even to be in such a situation anyway. In the UK, at least.

Plus, they have your mug on the CCTV footage too probably


Well, I know that in my dad’s garage he has almost half a dozen old license plates, and I’m sure that at least a couple are no longer in the system, since they are fairly old (they used a different numbering system, and when they switched, everyone got different plates.) But they still look close enough to the current ones that you could get away with it if you had them. So it really isn’t that hard to get old plates.

And as far as ‘pay before you pump’, I’ve never seen a gas station that does this 24-7, just a few that do it after dark. I think it’s just a bt-product of living in New England (we also have the little tabs on the gas pumps so we don’t have to stand there while filling up :smiley: .)

Depends on how many times you want to do it. You could probably manage a few times. Try it more than 3-4 times and you’ll get busted. My truck will only hold maybe $80 worth of gas… so you’d need to pull this off a lot of make it worthwhile… enough to get caught. If you do it once, is $80 worth a potential criminal record?

If you had an extra plate that couldn’t be traced to you, AND you only put it on the car immediately before driving onto the lot and removed it immediately after ( so the cops don’t bust you for having the wrong license plate), AND you hit a different gas station every time (so the clerk doesn’t recognize you and call the cops right away),it still wouldn’t last long.

Pretty soon the cops would know that there’s a blue 1999 Ford Focus driven by a 6 foot young white guy with a cap stealing gas in such and such area using one of 2-3 plates, and they might even tell the gas stations to call them if they see such a thing. You’d have a nice little photo album of grainy pictures of yourself that all the local authorities would have seen and are looking out for. They’d probably pull over any car matching that description in the area regardless of the plate you swapped if you did it too many times.

I say you’d be better off stealing the cars of honest people who leave the keys behind and go pay. You’d get the $50 worth of gas plus a car.

I like your thinking :wink:

Of course, you could always just take the plate off for a few minutes…

I’m glad “his” 80’s petrol theft is so easily caught these days.

I say "his’ to protect the dead…they are fussy like that.

The penalties, in case anyone is seriously considering it:

I stole gas once, without a different license plate on. Don’t worry - I paid it back. A long story, but basically I did not have my wallet with me and I ran out of gas. After literally coasting to a gas station, I put $1.00 of gas in and took off. When I stopped by the following week I told the cashier what had happened and she gladly added an extra dollar to my bill. My thinking is that they probably did not call the police for a $1.00 theft, because I did not get caught.

This is odd. Here in my area (Canada), the only time you must pre-pay is after dark (at any station I’ve been to anyway).

Even better, our pre-pay system is much better. You put in your ATM card or credit card, and it dials out for authorization for something like $60 (far more than the average gas purchase). Then you pump your gas, and when you’re done it completes the transaction for whatever you bought.

No over billing and no trip to the cashier whatsoever.