Filling Stations: Felonious FuelUps

filling station

Pilfering Petrol

One doesn’t normally associate purchasing gasoline for your car with felony fraud. However, when the filling station purchases occur over an extended period of time, and a federal purchasing (credit) card is being used in an unapproved manner, it doesn’t take much to reach the felony fraud dollar limit.

While one filling station fraud allegedly went on for three years…they will catch you (eventually). Three years is an investigative anomaly because the other filling station fraud case referenced supposedly only went on for four months.

These types of filling station credit card fraud cases aren’t difficult for federal agents to make. In fact, they’re downright easy, analogous to “shooting fish in a barrel.”

Why? Technology!

Big Bro’s Watching YOU!

In these kinds of filling station fuel purchasing cases, investigators utilizing data software tools were looking for purchasing (filling station credit card) irregularities (anomalies). The software’s designed to analyze individual credit cards tracking filling station purchasing amounts, dates, locations, vehicle types, license plates, gas tank sizes etc.

Doing a simple comparison of government vehicles approved for filling station fuel purchase versus actual vehicles (license plates) purchasing fuel and you have a mismatch (red flag). It’s that easy. Thus, the “shooting fish in a barrel” reference.

Filling Station Irregularities – High Dollar Amounts

In looking at these alleged filling station credit card fraud cases, one of the suspects was accused of having purchased over $2,600 worth of fuel for their personal vehicle at filling stations in approximately 4 months. Reading no further, that should immediately trigger a red flag.

Here’s a hypothetical situation: Let’s say your vehicle has a 20 gallon gas tank. Using an average gas price of $2.25/gallon it would cost you $45 to top it off at the filling station.

For argument sake, let’s say you fill up once a week. Calculating 4 trips to the gas station costs you $180 per month. $180 x 4 (months) = $720.

Now, for argument sake, let’s say you also fill up your wife’s car on the government’s dime. Doubling the cost puts you right around $1500 to fill up during that same time frame.

But again, that presumes you’re filling up once per week, not once every week and a half or so depending on how much or little you drive.

Regardless, the $2600 amount of fuel purchase on one card at filling stations in four months is a big red flag which warrants immediate review. Plausible? Perhaps, with a really solid explanation and management approvals etc.

However, more often than not there isn’t a legitimate explanation for the credit card usage. The initial suspicion is likely to reflect what’s actually transpiring: fraud, waste or abuse at the pump.

This Doesn’t Add Up

When I first read the story discussing how much fuel one individual purchased in four months, my immediate thought, before seeing other conclusions, was “something doesn’t add up here!”

This is an excessively high dollar amount of fuel purchased for one vehicle at filling stations presuming an average amount of miles driven per month.

So, I quickly went through the above purchasing scenario in my head. The reality: The suspect was allegedly using the credit card for illegitimate petrol purposes, selling fuel to his friends in order to make “ends meat” after his mother died leaving him with increased monthly expenses.

I was sort of feeling sorry for the dude…public servant and all. But then, I saw that he was filling up his “Shaguar,” baby! (i.e. Austin Powers: 1999 – International Man of Mystery).

I guess firefighters in D.C. are pretty well paid. Well, maybe not if they’re allegedly pilfering petrol regularly.

The Last Word

Fraud’s usually found in the figures and these cases were certainly no different. While red flags and anomalies are not always indicative of fraud, they are definitely worth our immediate attention.

Red flags warrant closer inspection to determine whether the anomaly is indicative of legitimate, but unusual, non fraud behavior or there’s a fraud crime occurring.

Whether,  it’s T&E, purchasing or other card usage, employee expenditures represent large dollars and are a big part of the bottom line.

Those are our insights. What are yours?

For more information on how we can help your businesses prevent risk, reduce major fraud losses and improve operational ROI, contact us to schedule an initial consultation. No obligations…just unique insights from an industry leader.