how petrol pump fraud works in India

7 types of Petrol Pump frauds (its a nation wide scam)

I got cheated at a Petrol Pump yesterday for ₹ 400.

Yesterday I went to a BPCL petrol pump to fill petrol in my car, where it all happened.

I asked the attendant for a “Full Tank”. I generally get out of my car and stand near the person filling it, but I was in a conversation with my friend and trusted the petrol pump as I have been there quite a number of times. However, this time I made a mistake.

The attendant asked me to see the ZERO on the meter and then started filling the petrol. Once the meter started and I thought that everything is fine, he stopped at ₹ 400 and started billing.

I knew this tactic where they say “Oh .. I thought you said ₹ 400”. So I told him to leave it at that point and bill it to me for  ₹ 400 only. I paid the amount and went ahead.

However, my car indicator was still showing the same “51 km” which it was showing before I went to petrol pump and did not go past it. That’s when I realized that I was a victim of another Petrol Pump fraud, which I was unaware of. I already went too far from the petrol pump and had no proof of the incidence that happened.  However, I was surely tricked.

I got back my Rs 400 and offer to terminate the employee

My immediate next was to lodge a complain on BPCL website with all details and I was quite surprised and happy to see that I got a call back from the petrol pump manager within 30 minutes.

He accepted the mistake and offered to pay back the fuel worth ₹ 400 and also terminate the employee if found guilty. I told the manager that I do not wish him to get terminated in this hard times. It will be enough if he can warn that person strictly and take measures to ensure this does not happen again.

Please listen to my 3 min audio recording with Petrol Pump Manager.


Today I visited the petrol pump again as requested by the petrol pump main manager (he was not present that day when I got scammed). He was quite helpful and courteous in explaining all the things to me. He also got my car filled for Rs 400 petrol so that I am not in loss. Apart from that, he also showed me their automation system which records each and every entry with the time stamp.

I was able to see the entry of Rs 401.50 for the exact time and date. However as I said, the petrol did not reach my car at all. As I said I was not attentive enough that day. I guess the petrol was getting filled in some other vehicle or container (check Fraud #4 below) which I will leave the petrol pump to investigate using their CCTV. I was also offered by petrol pump to do 5 ltr fuel test incase I want to.

Please note that I am not holding BPCL or manager responsible for what happened. After I met the manager, and asked all the questions I had –  I am convinced that it was purely employee mischief in this incident.

Also I want to acknowledge that BPCL was quite fast in resolving my case and the petrol pump manager was also quite prompt to investigate the case.

Is this a new kind of petrol pump scam which got invented?

This got me thinking about the quantum of these kinds of scams and frauds which happen almost every minute in our country in almost all the cities of India, where people get cheated of small amounts like ₹ 50, ₹ 20 or ₹ 500….

99% of the people who get scammed are not even aware of it. Others who are bit aware, they make a scene for 2 minutes, may get a refund and the matter is closed.

Massive “Small Scams” going on across the Petrol Pumps

There are close to 60,000 – 70,000 petrol pumps in our country. Imagine the amount which is looted together by all petrol pumps (leaving those who are clean) even if they do small frauds.

I feel it’s so rampant that it might amount to thousands of crores which is yet to be investigated in detail.

So to make everyone aware, I started digging internet, YouTube and various other platforms like Team-BHP, Quora, etc to check experiences of other people who got cheated and thought of compiling a list of different ways through which petrol pump attendants along with owners/managers in some cases defrauds customers.

So let’s see various frauds one by one ..

Fraud #1 – Short Fueling by distraction

This is most common and widely experienced fraud which can be done quite easily if you are not alert. Here is how it happens;

You ask for petrol worth ₹ 500, and the meter is already at ₹ 100 (the person before you filled it for ₹ 100) . The person tries to show that he is resetting the meter to ZERO, while you are distracted by another person. He does not reset the meter in reality, but starts from ₹ 100 itself and goes till ₹ 500.

You pay ₹ 500, but you get the fuel only worth ₹ 400 only.

If the meter is already set to ZERO, then they use another trick.

So you ask for petrol for ₹ 500, the attendant asks you to check the meter at ZERO and then stats filling the petrol and stops at ₹ 100. When you ask him why he stopped at ₹ 100, he tells you that he heard ₹ 100 only. Then he says that no issues, he will reset and fill another ₹ 400 (will give some crap technical reason why he can’t continue from that same point).

At this point someone from his team distracts you while the attendant starts filling from ₹ 100 onwards itself, when you think that he had reset the meter back to ZERO. Then he goes till ₹ 400 and charges you ₹ 500 (₹ 100 + ₹ 400). You get petrol worth ₹ 400 only, but pay ₹ 500.

In both these tricks, someone distracts you in the name of PUC, cleaning of vehicle, or will just ask you some silly thing and you turn your eyes away from meter.

Here is an image showing how it works

Giving less petrol than you pay for on petrol pumps (frauds and scams)

Unless you make a scene then and there itself, it becomes quite tough to catch them later because by that time the incident in old enough and you also loose the interest in fighting for few hundred rupees.

Fraud #2 – Tweaking fuel-dispensing machines using integrated chips

This is a clear cut fraud from the main owners of the petrol pumps or at manager level, because in this fraud – an integrated chip is installed in the machine itself. This chip makes sure that 3% less oil is filled every time while the meter shows the full amount. So if you ask for ₹ 1000 petrol, everything will look perfect but you will get petrol worth ₹ 970 only.

Even the receipt will be generated for the full amount. This is a small tweak which is done in the machine itself.

Frauds at petrol pump by installing echip in Machine

Imagine 10,000 customers coming to a petrol pump and everyone gets 3% less fuel. How big is that as a scam .. Now multiply that with hundreds of petrol pump who may be doing this.

To read more on this kind of fraud, you can read this article where it’s explained in detail about how the chip works and the methodology

Fraud #3 – Filling the costly version of Oil (Speed / Power) without asking

This is not exactly a fraud, but an unethical thing which most of the petrol pumps do.

They by default start filling the costlier version of the oil (Speed Petrol or Power Petrol) without customer asking for it. Most of the cars or bikes in India run totally fine with the unleaded version of oil which is the default thing. Then there are high octane fuels which can cost 5-10% more than the normal price.

A lot of petrol pumps guide their employees to NOT ASK which version to fill and directly start filling the high performance fuel. And if you catch them and question them, they inform you that it’s your responsibility to clear in start which one you wanted.

You may want to refer to this video from AskCarguru on this topic or read my article

Fraud #4 : Blocking your Mirror and Filling Oil to another Vehicle

This is an advanced level of fraud done by some high risk taker employees of the petrol pumps. This is done to those who like to sit in the comfort of their cars and completely trust the petrol pumps.

In this case, the person filling the petrol pump will show you the meter and set it at ZERO and then come in between of your left mirror and fuel tank. While fueling, he will stop at ₹ 200, ₹ 300, ₹ 500 or some number like that and will give you various reasons for why he stopped, for example, he is coming in 2 min or he has to bring swipe machine or start generator, etc. Once he is back, he will start from the same point.

You will feel everything is normal; however, the trick is that before he left, he was actually filling the oil in some other vehicle (obviously another guy is involved). Your mirror was blocked from seeing what is happening and you were either on a phone call or were listening to music, etc.

I guess this is what happened with me recently as I was in a conversation with my friend and was bit careless (as I had used the same fuel station many times! poor me)

Here is experience of Mr. Rananjay Singh shared on quora

petrol pump fraud blocking mirror tank

Fraud #5 – Start-Stop Trick to create an air lock (Long Nozzle)

A lot of times, the attendant while filling the oil, does not lock the dispenser nozzle into the tank neck and manually keeps pressing the start and stop button repeatedly. This makes sure that some quantity of oil is locked into the dispensing machine due to the air lock which is created.

As per the studies, 200 ml of oil is saved for every 10 liters of oil. Which means that if you are asking for FULL Tank, you are probably loosing close to 500-750 ml depending on your tank size.

Also if the dispenser nozzle is a long one, a decent amount of oil remains in the nozzle.

Considering thousands of liters of oil sold by a petrol pump every day, it probably saves them dozens of liters of oil, which I and you are paying for.

The solution for this is simple. Make sure the attendant locks the nozzle and does not interrupt till the auto-cutoff point is reached. Also the hosepipe should be raised as high as possible while taking it out of the tank.

Fraud #6 – Resetting the Meter to your final amount in between

This is a trick which shows how innovative people are.

In this trick, suppose you asked the attendant to fill petrol for ₹ 2,000. He shows you ZERO in the meter and starts filling the petrol.

Everything is going fine.. But towards the end when the meter shows around 1600-1700 and you get a feeling that now no one can scam you, some random guy will disturb you for various things like “Card or Cash” or “PUC” or “Lucky Draw” and things like that.

You are already relaxed now because you have been cautious enough from start thinking “what can go wrong now”.

The billing time comes, you check the meter and it shows your final amount of Rs 2,000. You pay the bill and leave.

Congratulations! You are scammed of few hundred rupees.

What happened?

So when the meter was at ₹ 1,700, and you got disturbed and diverted your attention to something else. The guy who was filling the petrol stopped filling the oil, did reset the meter to ₹ 2,000 (while the number of liters did not change).

We generally look at the amount only and not pay much attention to the quantity displayed. Some websites where I researched about this fraud also mentioned that in this kind of unauthorized meter reset, the meter amount blinks which is an indication that it was reset in a wrong manner.

Here is Vivek sharing his experience of a similar incident in our old article comments section

Fraud #7 – “Low Engine Oil or Coolant” Scare

Another fraud is not about the petrol or diesel, but scaring car or bike owners of low engine oil or low coolant and then selling their products. I have seen this multiple times happening at some petrol pumps where they offer to check the engine oil level and refill the water level. I don’t understand why my engine oil is always low only when I reach the petrol pump.

Once I realised that it was just to scare me in order to sell their products, I always tell them that my car is going for the servicing next day.

Here is an incident which was reported at Moneylife where they were cheated into believing that their engine oil was diluted and they were sold 5 packets of servo engine oil, which they got refund for later once they figured out the scam.

This even happens at Shell Petrol pumps which are generally quite famous for no scams (which I agree). Here is an incident which was reported at Team-BHP website by one of their members

petrol pump fraud low engine oil

Who is involved in these frauds? Employee or Owners?

Majority of the time, it is the attendant who is responsible for the small frauds and cheating which involves few hundred rupees.

They carry out some on their own and some with help of fellow attendants. However, in some cases even the petrol pump incharge/manager might be involved with the attendants in such frauds.

A lot of people say that manager/owner might be involved because the attendents take payments using the cards/paytm/google pay and not cash always. Even in this case the attendents might be able to benefit. This is because the payments happen by both cash and card and at the end of the day, they may adjust the amounts.

Having said that, some of you might think how exactly the entire process is carried out.

To understand this let’s look at a scenario.

At every petrol pump, meter reading on the petrol vending machine is taken at the start and end of the day. Sometimes it’s taken during shift changes. So, the point here to note is that the meter reading of start and end is taken.

Each transaction is not reported one by one. So at the end of the day only thing which is checked is the oil sold and amount collected through Cash and Card. If a fraud is done for Rs 500 and the payment happened by card, the attendant can take the Cash of Rs 500 out of all the cash collected. That’s all

Here is a simple example

Now suppose according to meter reading the sale made for that particular period is ₹ 900 just for understanding the system. There were two buyers who filled the oil, you and me.

You paid through card and I paid through cash. Now you asked for ₹ 500 fuel, but the attendant filled your tank only with ₹ 400 of fuel. Then I came and asked for ₹ 500 fuel and got fuel for entire amount and paid ₹ 500 in cash. Now, at the end of these two transactions. The amount that is with attendant is ₹ 1,000 (₹ 500 card payment slip + ₹ 500 in cash). However, the total fuel sold is only for ₹ 900 (₹ 400 to you + ₹ 500 to me). Hence, he conveniently takes out ₹ 100 cash from his collection and pays ₹ 900 to the petrol pump incharge/manager.

This ₹ 100 will then be distributed among the conspirators as per the agreed percentages.

Note that only in the big frauds which are manipulation of machine it self, the owner or manager might be involved.

Where to complain against Petrol Pump?

The first step is to ask for the “complaint book” of the petrol pump and register your complaint locally. Each Oil company has a complaint register book at every petrol pump station which they look at during audits and inspection. The petrol pump attendant or owner/manager will first try to give you reasons for not having it or will persuade you not to register the complaint. But make sure you do it.

Apart from that you can lodge your complaint online on the oil company website. I did complain on Bharat Petroleum website about this issue

Complaint Online for Petrol Pumps in India

When I checked on internet, many people reported that it’s helpful and actions are taken in few weeks or months. Here is the links which you can use

Important Precautions to Take

  • If you are in car, always come out and keep a close watch at the meter and how they are filling the petrol
  • Always make sure the meter is reset to ZERO in front of your eyes.
  • Always make sure that the meter shows ZERO while the oil nozzle is entered in the car tank.
  • Always ask for the electronic receipt after the oil is filled. Make sure before filling the petrol you check if there is digital meter or not.
  • Always avoid talking or entertaining anyone in between as far as possible.
  • Make sure you pay at the end of the transaction
  • Incase meter is stopped for any reason, offer to just complete the transaction and fill the petrol at next station or next day.
  • In case you are not satisfied with anything or want to complain – do insist for the complaint book, as the oil companies take the complaint book very seriously.

Please share if you have any experience of getting scammed on Indian petrol pumps..

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