Durban - Hand-held credit card machines are being swiped from Durban garages, apparently by those with fraudulent intentions.
In the past week two garages - which captured the thefts on CCTV - have laid charges at the Sydenham police station.
Ahmed Kathoria, manager of Simjees Convenience Centre Engen M19, said they had lost three of their card machines - at a cost of R8 000 each - in the past three months.
“Last week a car drove up to the petrol bowser. The driver pretended to check the oil and water in his car. His friend alighted from the car and watched the movement of the petrol attendants.
“He pulled the Speedpoint machine from the side of the bowser and placed it in the car,” Kathoria said.
He said he had viewed CCTV footage of the incident.
Three weeks ago, a car stopped outside the garage and two men got out and walked towards the bowsers.
One of them grabbed the machine and both ran back to the car and drove off.
On another occasion the machine had disappeared from the forecourt, Kathoria said.
The Engen garage on Felix Dlamini (Brickfield) Road had its machine stolen from the cashier’s counter.
The garage owner, who did not want to be named, said CCTV footage showed a car parked at the petrol bowser and the driver and his passenger walking into the shop.
He said one of the men placed his hand over the machine and when the cashier looked away, he stole it.
He said they also had motorists who filled up with petrol but didn’t pay. “These are frequent trends and there appears to be no solution.”
Garage owners had held a meeting recently to discuss ways to deter criminals from stealing the card machines, he said. “We are looking for some sort of technology to stop the machine from working once it is stolen.”
Sydenham police spokesman, Captain Myhen Lazarus, said they were investigating the thefts.
In most instances, the number plates of the cars involved were false, he said.
“We urge all petrol stations to be vigilant. This is a new trend. Owners should find ways of safeguarding the devices.”
South African Banking Risk Information Centre spokesman Kanyisa Ndyondya did not respond to e-mailed questions about the thefts.
Darryn le Grange, Blue Security’s managing director, said there had been incidents of petrol theft and armed robberies at petrol station convenience stores in recent months.
“Unfortunately, crime is affecting all types of businesses and petrol stations are vulnerable because they are open all hours,” he said.
“We advise owners to install CCTV cameras on their forecourts and at the entrance of stores, with bold signage warning that all activities on the site are being recorded. Cameras act as a deterrent and they can assist police and security companies with their investigations.”