Forecourt Eye, which works with 1,000 garages in the UK, reported a 39% rise in non-payments since January. These included motorists driving off without paying or claiming to have forgotten their wallet.
Nick Fisher, chief executive of the digital debt recovery company that traces and track non-payers, said forecourt theft had been rising month-on-month since Christmas. There was a 19.5% spike in January and February, which he linked to the rising cost of fuel.
This was followed by another rise of 4.5% in March, 8% in April and a further 7% in May.
Mr Fisher said: “At the moment, we’re seeing a spike of people claiming to forget their wallets. Some people are trying to get away with it.
“Then there are people who fill up, they go buy a coffee and don’t pay for the fuel. And then there’s the others who put in £30 (of fuel) and just drive off.”