POLICe forces across the UK, including Angus, are warning that criminals are using increasingly sophisticated means to target properties, including online technology such as Google maps.
So far this year thefts have been reported from the south of England up to Scotland, with one rural householder in Newlandrig, Midlothian, losing more than £1,700 worth of heating oil in a single raid.
Montrose fuel company Rix Petroleum (Scotland) Ltd is warning people to be on their guard against oil thieves, including opportunists who drive around the countryside looking for homes and businesses to target.
Ian McGregor, director of Rix’s Scottish operations on Meridian Street, said there were precautions people could take.
He said: “The situation is not helped by the fact many homes and businesses using heating oil are in isolated areas where thieves can go unnoticed for long periods of time.
“But like most criminals they are opportunists and if you make life difficult for them they are much more likely to abandon their attempt rather than risk getting caught.”
Mr McGregor added there were a number of simple and cheap tactics people could employ to ensure their tanks were more secure.
He said: “The first thing to ensure is that if you have an oil tank with a lid on it, it is padlocked. It’s also a good idea to check your tank’s gauge on a regular basis – it is difficult to know if oil has gone missing if you don’t know how much is in there in the first place.
“Remote electronic gauges are available which sound an alarm if the level in your tank suddenly drops or falls below a quarter full. These are placed in the house so are particularly useful in terms of alerting a possible burglary, a leak or just when to order your next delivery.”
He added other ways to protect your tank include fitting security lights or CCTV.
“This might sound expensive,” Mr McGregor said.
“But farms and other businesses often store thousands of pounds of fuel on site, making them a cost-effective form of security.”
To guard against thieves using online spy technology, Mr McGregor said disguising your tank can help put them off the scent.
“Do everything you can to ensure it doesn’t look like a tank from above,” he said.
“Grow trees round it, camouflage it or turn it into a garden feature, anything that will help to minimise you chances of being a victim of this increasing crime. However, do make sure when doing this you don’t block access to the tank or block the tank’s vent or breather, as this could lead to damage.”
More advice about on how to protect your oil tank from thieves can be found at www.rix.co.uk.