Pulling the plug on dangerous and antisocial energy theft and meter tampering.
The independent charity Crimestoppers runs the UK’s first-ever dedicated energy crime reporting line, stayenergysafe. As well as providing information and support for people that are worried that they may be at risk, Crimestoppers offers an anonymous reporting service and receives more than 250 reports from the public every month.
As part of this one-of-a-kind service, Crimestoppers is working with 96 of the UK’s main energy providers and distributors. The service urges landlords, housing associations, council representatives, tenants, businesses, and the public to come forward and report any suspicions or evidence of crime, either through the website, or on the dedicated number, 0800 023 2777.
Energy theft often involves tampering with the gas or electricity meters and supply so that it incorrectly records the amount of energy that is being used, or bypassing the meter completely. Energy theft is all around us, in homes and businesses all over the country. It’s estimated to cost the energy industry up to £500 million a year.
But that’s not the biggest cost.
Energy theft is not only illegal - it’s highly dangerous
Meddling with electricity wiring and gas pipes is a risky business. It comes at a very high price – damage to property, the risk of disconnection, fines, or criminal prosecution. In the worst scenarios, when people tamper with or bypass electricity and gas meters, they put people in and near the property at risk of sparks, burns, shocks, electrical fires, gas leaks, and fatal explosions.
Energy theft is seen by many as a way to save money, and the dangers are often overlooked. So-called ‘professional’ meter tamperers advertise their services for a fee, targeting business owners, landlords, and vulnerable low-income families. Perhaps even more frightening is how business owners, landlords, and tenants try their own hand at it. Unknowingly – or perhaps knowingly – they are making staff, tenants, and neighbours the victims of the crime.
One case in London exposed a landlord that had tampered with the electricity supply in 22 of his properties. Although he passed the savings onto his tenants, he unwittingly put them at huge personal risk. When officers inspected the properties, one of the meters was found to be on the verge of catching fire. Read real life stories of cases of energy theft here.
How can you spot the signs of energy theft?
- smell of gas
- loose or extra wiring
- rubber tubing instead of pipes (in the case of gas)
- a back-to-front meter
- dials not moving or moving backwards
- burn or scorch marks
- melted meter
- working but no credit available
However, some signs are less physical – from people bragging about saving money on their bills, to tenants leaving radiators on in the summer and windows open in the winter for long periods.
What you can do if you suspect energy theft
If you suspect that someone is stealing gas or electricity you should report it to the stayenergysafe reporting line immediately. The service is open to professionals and members of the public alike.
Stayenergysafe was launched in September 2016, and is operated by Crimestoppers, who are able to run anonymous whistleblowing services for all types of organisation, to prevent crimes of all types. Crimestoppers guarantee 100% anonymity to everyone who contacts them. Information will not and cannot be traced back to the person.
Roger Critchell, Director of Operations for Crimestoppers, said: “The stayenergysafe service has seen some really positive results since we launched back in 2016 and not only is it seeing more energy theft being reported, but it also helps to keep communities safe.
“The service is anonymous and much like our main reporting line, we never ask any of your personal details, while no-one will know you contacted us.”
With more than 150,000 cases of energy theft investigated every year, the charity continues to inform the public of the consequences of energy theft and appeal for information.
To find out more or to make an anonymous report of energy theft, visit: www.stayenergysafe.co.uk
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