It may be considered an “invisible” crime but it’s certainly not victimless. And, it can kill.
According to estimates, theft of electricity costs the industry as much as $6 billion every year in the United States alone. The problem not only results in higher prices for paying customers but it is also a public safety issue. Some thieves pay for the power they steal with their lives. Others live to face jail time or hefty fines and restitution.
Electricity thieves steal power using several tactics. Most power theft occurs through meter tampering, bypassing meters, and tapping power lines. Other less frequent crimes include tapping into neighboring premises, using illegal lines after disconnection, self-reconnection without consent, and electrifying fences. Possessing fraudulent electricity bills is also a federal crime and is punishable by law.
Power theft is not just dangerous for those who steal. If you are on the same power line as someone who steals electricity, you could pay the cost for their theft too. The power line could become overloaded with electric energy, which could harm your electronics and appliances designed to receive a certain steady amount of electricity.
Power thieves may also unknowingly feed energy back into the power line. This is dangerous for lineworkers, who believe the power line they are working on is de-energized.
Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. and its member co-ops urge readers to notify authorities and your electric co-op immediately if you know of an illegally connected consumer. If you observe any of the following, it could indicate meter tampering and/or energy theft:
- A person other than an electric cooperative employee working on a meter.
- A person other than an electric cooperative employee digging near underground lines or tampering with overhead power lines.
- Someone bragging about how low their energy consumption or energy bills are because of bypassing their meter.
Working together and reporting illegal activity will reduce the risk of danger to the public and reduce the price we all pay.