PEOPLE who use prepayment electricity meters are being targeted for fraud across the city as part of a £7million, nationwide crime wave.
Milton Keynes has been named as one of the UK’s hotspots for this type of crime with over 1,000 incidents of this nature reported to police recently.
Data from the leading energy companies across the UK – including British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower and Scottish Power – has shown that criminal gangs are focusing on prepayment customers and convincing them to buy illegal top-ups that in fact offer them nothing.
A reward of £10,000 is now being offered in partnership with Crimestoppers to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the criminals.
And there is also a national campaign running, Top-up Safe, which is continuing to warn people not to get involved with anyone offering these illegal energy top-ups.
It urges people not to get involved as buying credit from one of the fraudsters is a criminal offence. Plus, it is the customer who will be losing out as they will have to pay twice – once to the criminals and then again to their electric company who can detect the crime.
So far around 120,000 people have been affected, but with 3.5million prepayment customers across the UK that number could soar if people are not more vigilant.
Director of Energy UK, Christine McGourty, who is helping to run the campaign, said: “Our national campaign, Top-up Safe, has reached thousands of prepayment customers since it was launched, but there is more work to be done. The crime is still increasing in some areas and customers are losing money as they fall victim to this crime.
“The people selling these illegal top-ups are criminals and although it might seem like an easy way to save money, not only will you be getting involved in a crime, you will end up having to pay twice. The only people benefiting from this crime are the fraudsters, so make sure you buy top-ups from official outlets: PayPoint, Payzone or the Post Office.”
Director of Operations at Crimestoppers, Dave Cording, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to warn the public about this crime and would urge anyone who is approached with an energy meter top-up at their doorstep not to get involved. We are offering a reward of £10,000 to anyone who can supply us with information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved in this crime.
“I would urge anyone with information about criminals selling illegal top-ups to contact the charity, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via our online service at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.”
For more information about the Top-up Safe campaign visit www.top-upsafe.com.
Customers can also contact their energy company, Consumer Direct, on 08454 04 05 06.
Serious Organised Crime Agency deputy director Andy Baker said: “The response when this fraud was first highlighted last year was tremendous and many more people are now wise to the risks of getting involved in this scam. It’s clear though that these are determined and organised criminals selling illegal top-ups.”