HOUSTON — As if rising gas prices weren't enough to worry about, there's a new national trend that is just as concerning: gas theft.
A southwest Houston gas station said thieves have hit their tanks three times and even tried a fourth time. They said they got away with about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which is worth about $5,000. The thieves were caught on camera and the store said they were using a trap door in a van coupled with a lookout vehicle to steal the fuel in broad daylight.
But, it's not just businesses reporting the crime.
It's regular citizens, too.
How to tell if you're a victim
AAA acknowledged the concern for customers and offered some tips on how to determine if you're a victim of gas theft.
- You smell gas when you get to your vehicle
- There's a puddle under your vehicle near the fuel tank
- Your vehicle doesn't start
- A fuel gauge is lower than you remember
- The check engine light comes on
Thieves are using traditional methods to get their hands on the fuel. They're siphoning gas straight from the tank and also drilling holes in tanks.
"With gas prices hitting new highs, thieves are looking to steal gas," AAA Texas spokesperson Joshua Zuber said. "For a long time, siphoning was a popular method. Thieves in some cases have begun to drill directly into the fuel tank."
How to protect yourself
AAA also provided some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
- Park in a garage
- Invest in security cameras or motion-detecting lights
- Park in a well-lighted, busy area or a fenced-in lot
- Purchase a gas cap that locks
If you do think you're a victim, you should file a police report. You can also contact your insurance company to see if they'll cover the damage. The cost to repair a fuel tank could be $1,000 or more.
"Once a driver confirms their vehicle has been tampered with, you should contact the police, file a report, (and) reach out to your insurance agent to see if your policy covers related repairs," Zuber said.