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23 June 2011, 16:03
People are being warned to be wary of criminals selling electricity top-ups while police work with energy companies to stop it from happening.
Prepayment meter fraud is on the rise, especially in Ipswich where criminals are knocking on doors offering what seems like a good deal - £50 worth of electricity top-up for about £25. However, energy companies can identify meters that have been topped up illegally with customers then forced to pay twice for their energy - once to the criminal and then again to their electricity supplier.
Nationally, more than 230,000 incidents involving 127,000 customers have been recorded. The fraud is estimated to have cost customers more than £7million already. Nearly a thousand homes in Ipswich are thought to have been affected.
Suffolk Police is working with forces around the country and the Serious Organised Crime Agency to tackle the fraud. The country’s biggest energy companies are involved, too, helping officers to share intelligence and co-ordinate a national approach to tackling the crime.
A nationwide campaign, Top-up Safe, is alerting customers to the risks of purchasing illegal top-ups. Energy companies never sell electricity top-ups in this way, only through official outlets: PayPoint, Payzone and the Post Office.
Energy companies are working together to tackle prepayment fraud under the national ‘Top-up Safe’ communications campaign. The Suffolk Safe and Sound group is multi-agency partnership made up of Suffolk Police, Suffolk Trading Standards, Age Concern, The Pension Service, Suffolk County Council and voluntary agencies.
Chair of the Safe and Sound group David Kane said: “We urge anyone who has been approached to obtain top-ups for electricity in this way or if you are a carer and concerned that your relative, friend or client has been conned, to contact Suffolk Police. If you wish to remain anonymous, then you can call Crime Stoppers with information.”