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Take a Look at the Gas Station Glitch That Allowed a Woman to Steal Fuel for Six Months

The incident sheds light on the vulnerabilities in gas station systems that could potentially be exploited by tech-savvy individuals.
Cover Image Source: Man refuels his car (representative image) | Getty Images | Photo by Miguel Villagran
Cover Image Source: Man refuels his car (representative image) | Getty Images | Photo by Miguel Villagran

Risin fuel prices are significantly adding to the cost of living for an average American, but while most motorists are struggling, turns out someone found a way to squeeze out free fuel at gas stations. A gas station in Lincoln recently uncovered a glitch that allowed an individual to pump thousands of gallons of fuel for free. Dawn Thompson, a 45-year-old resident, now faces charges of theft for exploiting the glitch at the pump for over six months.

Person putting gasoline on a vehicle | Pexels | Photo by Erik Mclean
A person putting gasoline on a vehicle (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Erik Mclean

Upon investigation, the police found that the fuel pumps had received a software update in November 2022 to manage orders and reward cards, catering to customer and staff requests. Unbeknownst to the company, this update inadvertently introduced an exploitable loophole. It allowed users to swipe a rewards card twice, triggering the pump into a demo mode that enabled free fueling.

The loss prevention manager identified a specific rewards card that had been repeatedly used for this exploit. Police traced the card's information back to Dawn Thompson. Video surveillance confirmed Thompson's involvement, showing her pumping fuel into her vehicle on multiple occasions.

The fuel theft is believed to have occurred between November 13, 2022, and June 1, 2023. During this period, the rewards card was used 510 times, resulting in an estimated 7,413.59 gallons of stolen gasoline. With the average fuel cost during these months at approximately $3.758 per gallon, the total losses for the gas station were estimated at $27,860.27.

The rewards card did not accrue significant reward points as it was not used in the intended manner. Additionally, police uncovered another individual using the card in 2023. This person claimed that Thompson allowed her to use the card for "discounted fuel" and she paid Thompson for the privilege. The woman estimated paying $500 to Thompson for $700 worth of gas over ten uses.

Gas pumps | Getty Images | Photo by Brandon Bell
Gas pumps | Getty Images | Photo by Brandon Bell

Further investigation revealed that Thompson had received the rewards card as payment from a man settling a car debt. Unfortunately, the man was deceased by January 2024, making it impossible to contact him for details. Thompson was arrested on March 6 after a months-long investigation and was arraigned on Thursday. Her bond was set at 10% of $7,500, with the next court hearing scheduled for April 11, 2024.

In another similar incident, a thief targeted a Detroit fuel station, making away with approximately 800 gallons of gas worth $3,000, via the NY Post. Exploiting the Bluetooth option on a cellphone, the perpetrator managed to hack into the pump system, allowing unrestricted access to fuel. The owner of the Shell gas station shared details of the incident with FOX 2 Detroit. According to the station owner, known only as "Mo," thieves can manipulate the system using the hack, essentially creating a free-for-all situation where they can pump as much gas as they desire and even enable other vehicles to do the same. "They just open the pump for them automatically," Mo expressed, emphasizing the vulnerability of the system to such illicit activities. In this particular instance, the thief successfully siphoned off 800 gallons of gasoline, leaving the station owner grappling with financial losses.