If You're Getting Gas, Do This When Exiting Your Car, Police Say in New Warning
Rising reports of a common crime have prompted authorities to speak out.
Much like everything else these days, gas prices have been climbing. Even as there's been some relief, if you drive daily, you're likely still feeling the pinch at the fuel pump. Whether you're saving money by carpooling or finding ways to stretch your mileage, you still have to stop at the gas station when your tank is near that ominous "E." And according to a new police warning, there's a rising threat that could make your pitstop even costlier. Read on to find out what authorities are saying you must do when exiting your car at the gas station.
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Criminals often target victims at the gas station.
Gas stations are reliable spots for fuel and roadtrip snacks, but they don't have the best reputation overall: The bathrooms are not known for being the cleanest, and gas stations are also a common target for criminals.
You probably wouldn't be inclined to touch the floor of a gas station, but over the summer, authorities were forced to warn people not to pick up folded money left on the ground. According to a warning from police in Giles County, Tennessee, on two occasions, bills found at gas stations contained a powdery white substance that then tested positive for methamphetamine and fentanyl.
Police have also issued warnings about rising gas theft, warning vehicle owners not to fill up unless they're equipped with a locking gas cap. In July, police in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, warned about an uptick in skimmers on gas pumps as well. Skimmers can steal your credit or debit card information when attached to a payment terminal. They can be hard to detect, and victims don't even realize their information has been compromised until they get a bank statement or overdraft notice, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Now, criminals have a new tactic to turn a quick profit at gas stations—and they really mean "quick."
Police noticed an increase in one crime trend.
On Nov. 7, police in Crestwood, Illinois, issued a warning following rising reports of thefts from cars at gas stations.
"In the last 2 weeks, we have had several thefts from vehicles that occurred as the victim was fueling the vehicle while in a gas station," a Facebook post from the Crestwood Police Department (CPD) reads.
"As the victim is pumping gas, the suspect, usually in a stolen vehicle, pulls up along the passenger side," police wrote, citing an accompanying video of security footage. The clip shows the suspect's SUV approaching the fuel pump where a black pickup truck is parked. The passenger in the suspect's car jumps out while the car is still running, opens the passenger door of the victim's car, and steals what appears to be a bag. Some items are shown spilling out, which the thief leaves behind.
"The suspect then gets back in the stolen car and drives away," police said, adding that thieves are looking for their usual loot—valuables like purses and cell phones.
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Thieves are particularly quick.
The security video is 39 seconds long, but it illustrates just how expeditiously these crimes are being committed. "The suspect enters the car, steals the items, and is gone in less than 5 seconds," CPD said. In the video, you can see the victim at the pump, but they don't even realize that the crime is being committed right behind them, police noted.
Crestwood detectives are actively investigating the thefts, per the Facebook post, and are attempting to recover the stolen vehicles suspects are using "to obtain further evidence."
There's a key precaution you can take.
To keep yourself protected, police ask that you turn off your ignition and lock your car doors when you get out to fuel up. Per the CPD post, the suspects were able to easily access victims' vehicles thanks to them being unlocked at the time.
In the comment section of the warning, residents noted that they had similar experiences at gas stations. "I did have a lady approach me for money awhile back at Delta and when I said no she tried to open the passenger side of my car," one commenter wrote. "Too bad for her it was locked. Always always lock your vehicle. I have done this since I was a teenager."