Stealing electricity – key facts
People steal electricity around the UK every day. From business owners putting employees at risk of shocks or worse, to landlords stealing from tenants, people trying to save money for struggling families, right up to cannabis farms stealing electricity on a massive scale, someone you know is stealing electricity right now.
There are many stories on this website and in the media of landlords, former partners, or relatives “fixing” electricity meters, in order to save money on their bills – but putting family, neighbours, friends, and even whole communities at risk.
Stealing electricity is theft, pure and simple. When you steal electricity (approximately £400million was stolen last year in this country), this might save you money now, but you will pay for it later.
The energy companies are forced to put up their bills to cover the costs of stolen electricity – but that’s not the biggest cost.
When someone suspects you of stealing electricity, you will receive a visit from a revenue protection officer. These people have the power to cut off your electricity on the spot, and to recover the cost of all the electricity you have stolen. Fail to comply, and you may face criminal charges.
Electricity theft is a dangerous game
In 2017, a car wash owner was convicted as a result of tampering with his electricity supply – an employee, who was living in the back room of the car wash, was killed whilst in the shower. Read the full story.
Bypassing or meddling with an electricity meter involves moving, connecting and disconnecting live electrical wires. And whilst domestic properties have “low voltage” it’s still enough to give you, your children, or pets a nasty electric shock, or cause an electrical fire.
The combination of a spark from an electricity meter, with a gas leak, is even more explosive.
Electricity theft, put simply, involves bypassing or messing with the electricity meter and supply in some way so that it incorrectly records the amount of electricity that is being used. Tricksters turn off meters for a while to avoid measuring the electricity used, and then reconnect from time to time to avoid suspicion. But regular tampering only weakens connections further, and increases the risk of sparks and fires.
How to identify an electricity thief
Electricity thieves come in many guises. Many people think it’s clever to search online for top tips on bypassing their electricity meter, but without any electrical knowledge and expertise, the risks both to themselves, and to tenants, housemates, or family members, is huge.
There are also “professional” electricity meter tamperers in operation – often targeting landlords, takeaways and small businesses, and offering a paid service to “fix” the electricity meter to record a lower electricity usage.
These serial offenders are putting innocent lives at risk every day. They don’t care about your safety, and simply want to make money.
Electricity theft is never, ever safe.
If you pay someone to tamper with your electricity meter, you can’t book them in for an annual service, or call them up when your child receives an electric shock from a lamp, appliance, or shower.
So, what do you do? And how can you and your loved ones stayenergysafe?
Don’t be a victim of electricity theft
If you are the innocent victim of electricity theft, then you won’t be prosecuted. Your energy company will work with you to make sure you have a safe connection, and may even agree a payment plan to ensure the stolen electricity is paid back.
You can report any suspicions anonymously using the stayenergysafe reporting line, or using the anonymous form on this website.
Can you be certain that your electricity meter hasn’t been tampered with? Check the meter regularly – if it’s running backwards, has loose wires, or if you can’t see the numbers, then the chances are that someone you know is stealing electricity.
Another tell-tale sign of electricity theft is when a landlord (or tenant) has locked away the electricity meter, so you can’t see it to check whether it is safe. Unscrupulous landlords regularly bypass meters, lock away the evidence, and then charge tenants for energy bills and pocket the cash. Be very careful! Lives have been lost in blocks of flats where the meters have been bypassed or tampered with.
The real-life stories section of this website shows many cases where people have been injured, lost their homes, or in some cases, even their lives, due to electricity theft and meter tampering.
Look out for the signs of meter tampering using the tips in this link.
Pre-payment meters and other ways of controlling electricity bills?
You may find that installing an electricity pre-payment meter may help you keep control of your electricity bills and energy costs.
The household energy section of the government website contains a number of links and useful information to help you become more energy efficient, and to make the most of all the grants and payments available to help you pay your electricity bills.
Electricity theft is really not a good way to save money, even if you ignore the safety risks. If revenue protection officers catch someone stealing electricity, you’ll receive a bill on the spot for everything you owe, plus charges for the call-out and the safe replacement of the meter.
How to report electricity theft
The stayenergysafe service was set up specifically to help people find out useful information about staying safe from gas and electricity theft, and to make it easy to report suspicions anonymously online or over the phone.
You can report any suspicions today using the form by clicking here. The more information you are able to give, then the easier it will be for investigators to follow up your concerns. Even if you don’t know the exact details, we’d still like to hear what you know – small parts of a story, from lots of people, can help us build up a picture of patterns of behaviour, and help us to capture electricity thieves.
Do your part today, and tell us what you know.
Stayenergysafe is a completely independent service, run on behalf of the energy industry by Crimestoppers Trust. You can read more about how we keep your details secure by visiting the “How to report energy theft anonymously” page here on the stayenergysafe website.Electricity Theft
Meter cheating means tampering with the meter so it doesn’t record how much electricity or gas is being used or trying to bypass the meter completely.