Fuel thefts: New figures show surge in number of drivers stealing fuel at forecourts, what is bilking
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Fuel thefts from filling stations in Britain have surged, new figures have revealed. Data obtained by the RAC Foundation suggests that forecourt owners attempted to trace offenders over 39,563 incidents between July and September this year.
The latest figure is an increase of 77% from 22,335 during the same period last year and a fourfold increase on the total of 8,558 in those three months during 2019, which the RAC attributes to “systematic criminal activity”. The statistics relate to the number of requests made to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency for vehicle keeper data related to fuel theft.
The majority of these incidents likely involve drive-offs, commonly referred to as bilking, where individuals fill up their vehicles with no intention of paying and then leave. The British Oil Security Syndicate, an organisation advocating for reduced crime on forecourts, estimates that this practice costs filling stations an average of £10,500 per year.
The maximum penalty for drivers convicted of making off without payment, an offence under the Theft Act 1978, is two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “Among all the recent media attention given to the epidemic of shoplifting, it should probably come as no surprise to find that the theft of petrol and diesel from forecourts looks to be a big and growing problem, and these figures might only hint at a much bigger issue.
“While it may be that the cost-of-living crisis is tempting some people to risk driving off without paying, the real headache for fuel suppliers is if this is a sign of more systematic criminal activity.
“The message to anyone tempted to bilk the service station must be ‘Don’t fill up if you can’t pay up’ because getting caught is a real possibility, and financial losses to companies ultimately lead to higher prices for us all.”