RURAL home-owners with oil-fired heating systems are being urged to be aware of oil thieves this winter.
Recent years oil thefts have increased due to exceptionally harsh winters and higher fuel prices.
The trend is expected to continue during the colder, darker months with the number of thefts increasing as home-owners replenish their tanks.
The Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) – the body representing the oil heating and cooking industry – is urging home-owners to take precautions to protect their fuel oil.
"Unfortunately, oil is a valuable asset so this is a problem we're seeing more frequently," said Malcolm Farrow, of OFTEC. If more people are aware and vigilant of oil thefts in rural communities, hopefully there will be fewer victims of this crime."
The post-Christmas period, with people feeling the pinch after the festive season, made the early new year a popular time for thieves to strike.
Although average oil prices are lower than they have been in the last few years, home-owners are still paying a lot of money each time they top up their tank.
Over the last five years rural households using oil have seen a 23% average increase in oil prices, less than gas and electricity which have risen by a substantial 58% and 40% respectively.
But oil is easier to steal than mains gas or electricity – especially in isolated rural areas where thieves can syphon fuel from a tank and drive away before they are spotted. Many victims remain completely unaware that anything is wrong until their heating stops working because they have run out of oil.
Mr Farrow said: "The fuel tank can be damaged in the process of theft so it's not just the cost and inconvenience of replacing the oil that users need to be aware of.
"In extreme cases a new tank is required which can leave someone without heating for several days and with quite a hefty bill."
"The good news is that there are some simple things that can be done to limit the risk of theft, such as fitting lockable caps and installing a security light to deter thieves."
Electronic level gauges and alarms are also very effective in alerting someone to a sudden drop in their oil level, said Mr Farrow.
The olive smart meter helps you keep tabs on how much oil you have and it will also send you an email alert if the quantity of oil in your tank drops unexpectedly. There is a special offer available to RAD Community Oil Buying Scheme members, the price is £99 (RRP £120) and if you order before the end of November 2016 you will also get £10 off your next oil order (valid on orders up to 31st March 2017). For more information please email email@example.com or call 01629 706456.
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For more information on the oil buying scheme, click here.
Telephone: 01629 592970 / 0845 313 8800