Criminals pocket as much as £7 million from U.K. electricity prepayment customers


Audrey Gallacher,
Consumer Focus
London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — March 10, 2011 – Criminal gangs targeting prepayment meter users across Great Britain are believed to have netted as much as £7 million in the nationwide fraud, according to the charity Crimestoppers.

A reward of up to £10,000 is now being offered in partnership with Crimestoppers to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of these criminals, while people are being warned not to get involved with anyone offering illegal energy top-ups.

According to an article posted by Crimestoppers, data from the leading energy companies – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power and SSE – shows that the fraud is continuing to hit customers across the country. Particularly affected are London, Kent and the Midlands.

An earlier investigation by Sky News found that around 125,000 people had purchased illegal top-ups for their meters. However, this number is expected to increase as there are over 3.5 million prepayment meter customers across Britain.

The fraud is believed to have started when, last year, hackers cracked the technology used to create the recharge “keys” that come with £50 credit. Cloned keys have been sold on to the gangs, who are using them to top-up meters for £25 cash.

“All prepay meter customers are likely to feel the effects of this,” commented Audrey Gallacher from Consumer Focus. “Action to address the problem, whether through technological fixes or changing meters, will ultimately be borne by consumers.”

Despite the extent of the crime, only 16 arrests have been reported so far.