Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Fuel Dispenser Pulsars Under Attack

by Rich Morahan, Richard Morahan Associates


The Latest Brute Force Threats to Your Business

Garland, Heartland, Kemp, Canton, Mabank, Lindale, Palestine, Elkhart and Plano. These cities are all in Texas, but they’re not the latest stops on Willie Nelson’s tour. They’re just a few of the latest skirmishes between fuel suppliers and an army of thieves. These headlines from around the country tell the tale.

“Diesel thief used device to trick Wawa fuel pumps, fill hidden tanks, cops say.”
Delaware State Police didn’t describe the device but said “multiple Wawa gas stations have been experiencing a trend of diesel fuel thefts in which the suspects install a device to the fuel pump that manipulates the pump to dispense a large volume of fuel for a fraction of the cost.”

“Reno police issue warning over rising gas station skimming scams.”
“Officials say the best way to avoid falling victim to these is to look for the seals placed on the pumps. If you notice the seal is missing or damaged, you should notify the gas station immediately.”

“Gas stolen from Marathon station at 7 Mile and Southfield.”pulsar.png
Thieves used a remote device to hack into a gas pump and steal 600 gallons of gas, Detroit police said.

Whover infiltrates your fuel dispenser could be after data or fuel. This latest brute force threat in Texas and other states heads into the dispenser to manipulate the fuel pulsar. The Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center is one of a number of state agencies, along with Connecticut and Florida, to focus on this latest tactic.

Thieves usually manipulate the pulsar by jumping the wires leading to the pulsar. This method might not work with a pulsar cover installed, but its arrival certainly signals an escalation in attacks on fuel dispensers.

Here is the message from the Texas Financial Crimes Intelligence Center (TFCIC), which investigates and tracks criminal activity—including payment card skimmers and fuel dispenser manipulation.

First reported in Oil Express, the method is a new twist on pump manipulation that doesn’t directly touch the pulser, a component that controls how the dispenser measures and displays fuel volume and cost.

Florida has taken action with new retail fuel theft legislation that went into effect on July 1, 2023, making the use of so-called pulsar price manipulators a second- or third-degree felony.

Prevent Pulsar Bypass by Installing a Full Pulsar Cover

A full pulsar cover will keep a thief from getting access to wires to install a bypass cable. PetroDefense of Zypher Hills, FL, markets a kit that combines a Gilbarco Pulsar cover and a Lock America Puck to prevent access. Combined with a keyed alike hockey puck lock on the bottom skirt, this arrangement should deter all but the most dedicated criminal.

Time to Step Up Security to Meet New Threats

Once upon a time, good lighting and tubular keys would protect your fuel dispensers from data skimmers or fuel thieves. But without a high security locking system with your dedicated key codes and additional hardware, thieves now have plenty of vulnerability to exploit. And even if you have a secure panel lock, some bottom skirts are secured with factory-installed set screws, which can be easily compromised by drill bits available on Amazon and other online sources. In isolated areas, thieves just pry off the skirt. The battle against theft is won in skirmishes. You can usually prevent attacks into your dispenser at this level with a shackle and a hockey puck lock. But if they break through, you need more, a pulsar lock cover, sealed with a puck lock, with millions of key codes registered to your company. Certainly, the days of relying on eagle-eyed attendants, cameras and security tape are long gone. It may be time to recognize that “security tape” reassures your customers but doesn’t deter professional thieves. Anyone who can bypass a dispenser lock can buy stock tape from the internet or produce a copy on a home printer. Just Google “Dispenser security tape.” Can you be sure that your tape is unique?

Select Your Level of Cost-Effective Defense


There are levels of perimeter defense to your business. At a minimum, you need lights and carefully aimed cameras, which will record how you’vebeen robbed by vehicles with obscured license plates. Your next line of may be security stickers to show that you’ve been robbed, unless the thief has brought the same brand as you from the internet. Then you won’t even know what’s happened till you match those little numbers. Lights and tape are only public reassurances and only distractions to even the novice thief.

So, you now are down to the lock and cover as your last line of defense. You need to replace your top panel lock with a high security lock, available from a number of suppliers, such as CompX, Insta Key, Lock America and Van Lock, with a key code exclusive to your business. And you may need a hockey puck lock for the bottom skirt. Keep in mind that all hockey pucks are not alike. Are your key codes unique, registered exclusively to your company, with a non-duplicatable key blank. Can you key the locks on each pump alike, and then master key your entire site or company? A pulsar cover and lock set may be costly for all but your most vulnerable locations, but as fuel prices threaten to rise again, you may need to upgrade your security right to the inside of your dispenser.

Rich Morahan writes frequently about security and marketing for a number of industries, including information management, petroleum and propane distribution and self-storage. You can contact him at 617-240-0372 or rmwriteg@gmail.com, or visit www.rmorahan.com.

Business Management
June 2024
Lock America
fuel dispensers
fuel pumps
skimming scams

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