Safeguarding the Filling Station


Lock America battles fraud and theft

Theft of credit card information from fuel dispensers at gas stations is a growing problem, but one manufacturer is helping stations safeguard equipment with strong dispenser security systems.

Lock America Inc., of Corona, Ca., offers gas dispenser locks that are specifically designed for gas dispensers made by Gilbarco and Wayne. (The company is developing similar solutions for Bennett pumps.)

Watson Visuwan, Vice President of Sales for Lock America, said that gas dispensers are vulnerable to theft because the so-called CRIND door that covers the credit card reader is secured by a key that is easy to obtain. The CRIND door keys are universal, which means that a key from one station can be used to open dispenser doors at another station.

A gas station can be successfully targeted for theft of credit card information, because a thief can use a universal key to unlock the CRIND door and install a skimming device that collects the credit card info and transmits it to the thief via Bluetooth wireless technology.

Service stations have tried to combat the problem by placing stickers over CRIND doors as seals. Stickers cannot prevent a breach but can only indicate a breach after it occurs.  In addition, thieves learned to beat that system by printing new stickers, so they could break the sticker, install a skimmer and then reseal the door with a counterfeit sticker.

Lock America’s locks and keys, which are marketed by Petro Defense, have a unique code for each dispenser and use a key style that is unusual and very difficult to duplicate. Jesse Lee, President of Petro Defense, said that Lock America’s keys have proven virtually impossible to pick, even when the company has offered a cash price for beating the lock. The unique key shape that Lock America uses also prevents duplication, because locksmiths don’t have the blank keys or the grinding machines need to make copies, he said.

The manufacturer can customize the keys for a particular station or chain of stations so that the motor door key is different from the CRIND door key, which enables a manager to let an employee service the motor without being able to access the card reader, according to Visuwan. Lock America can also create master keys that a manager can use on multiple dispensers.

Credit card theft is not the only gas station security threat that Lock America is addressing; gas stations are also vulnerable to theft of physical product by siphoning. Thieves use vans that are specially outfitted with a trap door, a siphoning system and an auxiliary tank mounted inside the van. They park the van over a gas tank cover, reach down through the trap door and break the tank’s lock, and then siphon the gas into the auxiliary tank. “They get a couple thousands gallons and take off, and all anyone sees from the street is a van parked at an opened or closed gas station,” Visuwan said.

To thwart that tactic, Lock America is developing specialized locks that are resistant to picking and cutting. The new locks, loosely based on the locks on the “boots” that police use on cars with unpaid parking tickets, are in prototype now, and Lock America hopes to bring them to market in 2015, according to the Lock America VP.

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