How to Tell If Your Neighbors Are Stealing Your Electricity

by David Weedmark, Demand Media Google

    Stealing electricity is not only a crime, it's also extremely dangerous. Across the United States, electricity theft costs approximately $6 billion a year. Every year people are killed or injured due to tampering with power cables. Meters and electrical boxes can catch on fire and explode due to tampering. If you suspect a neighbor is stealing electricity, contact your electricity provider as soon as possible, not only for your wallet, but for your safety and theirs. If you're uncertain they're stealing electricity, there are some things to look for; but, for safety's sake, never touch wires, cables or inside electrical components. If you're in doubt about what you see, call the electric company.

    Step 1

    Review your electric bills for unusually high usage. Keep in mind seasonal variations in your bill, like increased usage for air conditioning in the summer, or new appliances. Beyond those variables, however, if your bill has recently doubled or more, someone may have tapped into your electricity lines.

    Step 2

    Examine the area around any electrical outlets that are accessible outside of your house, including outdoor outlets, porches and garage. Purchase lockable outlet covers for outdoor outlets, or turn off the breaker to these outlets when they're not in use.

    Step 3

    Examine the cables and conduits leading to your house for any signs of tampering or questionable cables leading from them. Meters and electrical boxes outside of your house should have a security tag. This is usually a looped wire secured with a plastic case about the size of a small padlock or a key chain. If the seal is broken or missing, someone may have been tampering with your electricity.

    Step 4

    Examine the electric pole near your house for additional wires, disconnected cables, extra clamps, or anything else that seems out of place compared to other poles on your street.

    Step 5

    Turn off all the power in your house using the main disconnect beside your breaker box or fuse box. Then go outside and examine your electric meter. If all your power is turned off, the meter should stop moving. If it has not stopped, someone may have intercepted your electricity.

    Step 6

    Contact your electricity supplier if you suspect someone is stealing power, whether they are tapping into your home or from the street. Most electricity providers have an anonymous tip line or contact form on their web pages for reporting electricity theft. The electric company has the resources and equipment to determine whether or not your neighbor is stealing electricity.

    Warning

    • Do not ever touch cables or wires coming from an electrical box or meter.

    About the Author

    David Weedmark's articles have appeared in dozens of publications since 1989, including "The Windsor Star" and "The Ottawa Citizen." As well as being a technology consultant, he is the author of several books, including "The Tanglewood Murders." Weedmark studied English at the University of Toronto.