U-Haul: Crooked renters refill gas tank with water

U-Haul: Crooked renters refill gas tank with water  »Play Video
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Crooks have come up with a new scam to get out of paying for gas, and it's costing truck rental companies thousands of dollars.

Crooks reportedly rent U-Haul trucks then, when the time comes to return the truck, top off the tank with water instead of gas, wrecking the engine.

U-Haul dealers say the scam has become more prevalent as gas prices continue to rise.

"We had five or six (instances of) water in fuel (tank) last week," said Kim Merow.

Merow is a U-Haul veteran who has been on the job for 14 years. She says she witnessed gas scams plunge to a new low in the past two months as gas prices traveled further into record territory.

"It seemed a little bit odd in the very beginning when this started happening, but the more and more it happens, we shake our shoulders," she said.

Some scammers get away with it because the trucks are often handed over to the next customer very quickly. But water in the gas tank eventually brings the trucks to a sputtering stop.

"It can cost up to $2,000 each time it happens, minimum," said Merow.

U-Haul dealers must now find a way to counter this new water scam while also continuing to battle traditional gas scams. They are on full alert.

"We have increased security, increased cameras at all our locations, increased patrols," said Merow.

Merow says the thefts have become brazen. Just this past weekend someone stood on the other side of the U-Haul parking lot fence in broad daylight and fed through a siphon hose, trying to get at the gas inside the U-Haul trucks.

The brazen thieves were caught.

"Unfortunately we caught them before they did it. Because then we couldn't prosecute," said Merow.

The dealer hopes a relief in gas prices will eventually discourage thieves from taking the low road.

"They're estimating that costs might start going down in September," she said.

Tacoma and Olympia areas have been hard-hit by the water scam so far. Seattle, however, has remained mostly unaffected.