Rural households are being warned to stay vigilant in case of oil thefts as the winter chill increases.
Thousands of homes across the country rely on oil for central heating, according to the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) which represents the domestic oil heating and cooking industry.
A recent survey by the National Farmers Union showed fuel was the third most attractive commodity for thieves targeting rural properties.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC said: “January and February often brings the harshest weather and this, combined with people feeling the pinch after Christmas, can make the early new year a popular time for thieves to strike.”
Police in counties such as Somerset, Devon and Cornwall (pictured) which have the highest number of households with oil fired heating suggested people ward off thieves by fitting padlocks to oil tanks or installing motion detecting security lights.
They also advised looking out for suspicious vehicles, especially on the day of an oil delivery.
Inspector Adam Cornish from Devon and Cornwall Police added: “Heating oil theft is a reoccurring problem in the county which we are continually working hard to combat. By being aware and taking simple precautions to protect your tank you can significantly reduce the risk.”