Toll Transponder Thefts: a Mess of Happy Meals

From Times Staff Writers

Thieves using stolen windshield toll transponders have charged about $4,000 worth of food at McDonald's, where the devices have been accepted as debit cards since April 2000, according to the Transportation Corridor Agencies.

The FasTrak transponders respond to radio signals to credit tolls--and now cheeseburgers--to motorists' accounts. They allow users to roll through toll plazas without stopping.

TCA receives 20 cents each time a McDonald's purchase is made with a FasTrak. The theft losses equal 0.32% of all McDonald's purchases with the transponders.

Clare Climaco, a TCA spokeswoman, said people should treat a transponder like a credit or debit card.

"They should take it out of their windshield and put it in a glove compartment or purse when they're not using it," she said.

While only a few McDonald's in the county accept transponder charges, the program is soon expected to go to 50 of the fast-food outlets.

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