The Golden Key To Free Gas

June 26, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WXTX)--It's one of the best kept secrets in the gas station business...until now.

They call it the Golden Key...a universal key that can get you into most gas pumps, and access the main computer.

Thieves have been capitalizing on the relatively unknown feature in states like South Carolina and Florida.

The universal key though, only goes so far...once you're in the gas pump, you need the access code for the pump's computer.

"The key is having a code...a code will allow you to get into the electronics and pump gas without ringing anything up," said Larry Markham with Circle K Gas Stations.

Many gas pumps come with a universal access code as well as a universal key.

If station owners do not change it, their pumps are just sitting ducks for thieves who know what they are doing.

Here in the valley, gas stations are aware of the weakness, and are taking prevention into their own hands.

"With all of our gas dispensers, we change the code right away,  and the only people with that code are maintenance personnel," said Markham.

"We have a lady watching the pump all the time, and when we close, we turn the electricity off," said Buddy Helton, Owner of Buddy Helton Chevron in Columbus.

These owners always have to stay one step ahead of the thieves to make sure they don't fall victim to these crimes.

"The way gas is now, people are getting smarter and smarter on more and more things," said Markham.

Police here in the Valley have not seen this type of theft just yet.

More and more gas stations are seeing people actually tampering with the dispenser, rigging it so it will pump gas, but not ring anything up.

One man has already been arrested in Columbus, with police on the lookout for more.