The isolated nature of some rural homes makes them an easy target for thieves
Rural householders have been warned by police to be vigilant after a rise of heating oil thefts from gardens.
The price of the fuel has risen by 70% in recent months and criminals are said to be using increasingly sophisticated tactics to target isolated homes.
Police have advised homeowners to fit padlocks on their tanks and consider installing alarms.
More than 1.5m homes across the UK, mostly in rural areas, are dependent on heating oil.
The increase in the price of the oil and the isolated nature of many of the homes has made them an easy target for thieves.
David Hamilton, a pensioner who had £500 worth of oil stolen from a tank outside his home, said it “doesn’t take much” for an isolated person to get cold without fuel and heating before going “over the edge” towards hypothermia.
Ian Johnson, of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said thieves “will do anything” to steal fuel.
He said anecdotal evidence suggests they are using increasingly sophisticated tactics, “including watching the depots, following the lorries, seeing where [fuel] is delivered and helping themselves to the contents”.
Insurers say the average claim for such a theft is more than £2,000, although Mr Johnson warned that “some insurers don’t cover that”.
The BBC’s Louise Hubbal said: “Police say that the oil is being sold on and can even be used in diesel cars.”