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Pa. police department warns of "pump switching" scam at gas stations

Lower Merion Police warn people about aggressive "pump switching" scam
Lower Merion Police warn people about aggressive "pump switching" scam 01:53

LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) -- Police are warning residents about a scam targeting gas station customers using their credit cards at the pump.

"It was aggressive," Sue Mancill said.  

She said she was shaken after getting fuel at a gas station in Bala Cynwyd Saturday afternoon back on Sept. 9. She said a stranger, who was not an employee of the gas station, walked up to her.  

"I started pumping gas. I was approached right away with, 'Hey, you want me to pump that for you?' and I was like, "'No, thanks. I'm good,'" Mancill said. 

She tried to place the nozzle back in the pump, but the same person was there.  

"It was like literally, he took it out of my hand. Like, I would have had to like argue with him to get it back. So, I wasn't going to do that," she said. 

Mancill left.  

"I didn't think it was anything, until I got a notification on my credit card that $165 was charged. So I called my bank."  

The gas station itself, in this case and others, is not involved in any wrongdoing. However, Lower Merion Police Detective Sgt. Michael Keenan said this is the start of a scam.  

"You leave the pump open, and they walk up to the next car and they say, 'Hey, give me $20 and I will fill your gas tank for you,'" Keenan said.  

He said you are then paying for gas for other people. However, Keenan warned against trying to take the nozzle from the scammer. 

"So please, first and foremost, protect yourself. A fight or a struggle over the gas pump handle isn't worth it," he said. "Let us help you by calling us right away and letting us know that you've had this uncomfortable interaction with somebody."  

Customer Yota Catori said she has always refused cheap gas from scammers in the past. However, she was shocked to hear of this particular crime.  

"See? So many scams! Whoa! Yeah. Just don't even like communicate, you know," Catori said. 

"I'm always like aware of my surroundings, and stuff," Frank Pellegrino. said. "It's Philly. You gotta be aware of what's going on around you."  

"I usually ignore those people anyway," Malikah Schakope said. "So, that's kind of scary that they are doing that."  

Police have one more warning. Anyone perpetrating or benefitting from this scam can face felony charges of theft, receiving stolen property, device fraud and conspiracy.  

Lower Merion police warned the public in a Facebook post on Friday and said anyone witnessing the scam should stay at the scene in a safe area and call 911.

"To protect yourself (and your wallet) please make sure to always hang up your own gas nozzle or hit 'end transaction' on the pump's keypad. It is wise to print a receipt at the pump or obtain one from the office to as proof of purchase," the post said.

** Scam Alert** The Lower Merion Police Department is disseminating information regarding a growing crime trend of...

Posted by Lower Merion Police Department on Friday, September 15, 2023
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