Each year, the insurers NFU Mutual produce a rural crime report which analyses the trends in thefts and other crimes in country areas. The 2016 report was published a few months ago and contains some sobering news for homeowners and business people.

Heating oil, along with diesel, was previously the third most frequently stolen item in countryside thefts, but it didn’t feature in the top five this time. This is probably because the price has not been as high as it previously was.

The early part of the year – usually the coldest – is the period which sees the most heating oil thefts. So, what can you do to protect your tank and its contents? Here are a few tips.

Tanks – Hide Them and Lock Them
If at all possible, try to hide your tank. This isn’t always easy, but if you are having a new tank installed try to make sure that it can’t be seen from the road and that it’s not in a direct line with any exits from the property. If you’re not intending to replace your tank in the near future, shrubbery can do a great job of screening it, especially from the road. Your local garden centre will be able to recommend a fast-growing and dense shrub that will do the job.

If possible, lock the entire tank, but if this is not practicable, add good-quality locks to any openings or caps.

Be Vigilant – Monitor Levels
Someone may be stealing small amounts of oil regularly and relying on the fact that unless you check the levels in the tank consistently, you are unlikely to notice the thefts. Variations in use during the year mean it is difficult to tell how much your household has used and to figure out whether someone else is helping themselves.

However, there are monitoring systems that can help to track how much oil you use, how much oil is in the tank and whether fluctuations in the level are consistent with the time of year or indicate theft. You can have this data is sent to your phone, PC or tablet. At the very least, it prevents you having to go out in the rain, wind and snow to take a tank reading. And you can also get an alarm system that will alert you if there is a sudden drop in the tank levels.