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How to tell if neighbors are stealing your electricity

Updated March 23, 2017

Electric companies and consumers lose billions of dollars annually to electricity theft. Drug dealers use stolen electricity to power indoor marijuana growing operations and meth labs. In addition, a poor economy has caused electricity theft to rise as people who are struggling to make ends meet resort to desperate measures to keep the power on. The high bills associated with stolen electricity aren't the only shock you may encounter. Stolen electricity can be dangerous. Thieves strip wires and leave them exposed where people can accidentally touch them.

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  1. Examine your electric bills. If your bill is suddenly unusually high, check to see if the rates have changed. Compare your current bill to past bills to see if your usage has increased, and look around to see if anything has changed in your house. Are you using the air conditioner more? Did you buy a new refrigerator that is less efficient than the old one?

  2. Examine your wires. For electricity to be stolen, somebody must tap into your system, most likely between your electric meter and the spot where your main electrical wires enter your house. Do not touch the wire under any circumstances, but visually inspect the wire between your meter and your house. Are there splices there that weren't there before? Are there clamps or wires coming off the main wire? If you see a wire going from your house to your neighbour's, its a good indication that electricity is being stolen.

  3. Turn off all your circuit breakers, then go look at your meter. If it is still running, it means something is drawing power from between the meter and the electrical panel. That's a good indication that power is being stolen.

  4. If you suspect a problem, call your power company. Your utility provider can determine if power is being stolen. Many utilities have "police" whose job it is to investigate power thefts.

  5. Warning

    Stolen electricity often relies on exposed wires. Don't touch any suspicious looking wire. You could suffer a dangerous electrical shock.

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About the Author

Philadelphia-based freelancer Pat Kelley has been writing since 2002, most recently for Scripps Texas Newspapers. He has won numerous awards for reporting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

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