The Strathclyde police has warned petrol retailers about the dangers of fuel card fraud as it pursues an investigation into an incident where only one card was used in a number of transactions to obtain fuel to the value of £11,000.

“This is just one example of a much greater problem,’ said Sergeant Jakeway of the Strathclyde police community safety department.

He said cards can be obtained in a number of different ways - they can be simply stolen from a vehicle, cloned, or sold on by a legitimate user, before being reported stolen at a later date.

Cloning - copying a card - is not that common at present, according to Sergeant Jakeway, but with today’s technology it can be simple and cost-effective to do. It has also been known for vehicles to be set on fire after the theft of a card to disguise the fact and delay reporting of the loss of the card.

Sergeant Jakeway said; “Each card is specific to a vehicle and to eradicate this crime we need forecourt staff to be more vigilant and to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and the profit of the business. Banks and building societies use a number of measures to protect against fraud, but to avoid fuel card fraud retailers must rely heavily on their forecourt staff.

“They should always check the registration number of the vehicle against the card, and make sure an unrealistic amount of fuel has not been drawn. If in doubt, ask the driver to confirm their identity and retain the card. If the customer becomes aggressive staff should think about their own safety first, initially seeking the assistance of a colleague or supervisor and then the police.

“Do everything you can to avoid violence and if this means returning the card then do so as a last resort. Your safety is paramount,” stressed Sergeant Jakeway.

Garry Gibson, manager of Cooper Brothers in Wishaw, has already taken measures to reduce fraud: “As 60% of our transactions are by fuel cards, we take every measure we can to make sure the card is not fraudulent. This includes online authorisation of every card swiped.”