THE cost of living crisis is driving a ”worrying” rise in meter tampering, according to trade associations in Scotland.

Two electrical and plumbing trade bodies have said that financial desperation is causing more people to interfere with their gas and electricity meters.

Electrical contracting trade association SELECT and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) said that tampering with meters was both illegal and dangerous.

In a joint statement, Alan Wilson, managing director of SELECT, and Fiona Hodgson, chief executive of SNIPEF, said: “It is a distressing sign of the times that an increasing number of consumers are resorting to tampering with their electrical and gas meters in an effort to reduce their energy bills.

“Stealing energy in this way is a worrying and illegal practice, often encouraged by widely shared footage on social media. But it risks lives and can have fatal consequences for innocent people close by.

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“Such services are often offered by unscrupulous individuals who will bypass services or devices for a fee. But often the methods they use are often extremely dangerous and they can have no, or very limited, knowledge of what they’re doing.

“Like all gas and electrical work, interrupting the supply is something that should only ever be dealt with by fully-trained and qualified professionals.

“We are urging all householders and tradespeople to immediately contact the relevant energy company if they suspect meter tampering has occurred.”

Last year energy regulator Ofcom warned consumers against believing social media posts which encouraged people to remove their meters as an “energy saving hack”.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) recently said that meter tampering was increasing and cautioned against the practice, which can have potentially fatal results.

Sean Smith of the SFRS said: “SFRS is now seeing meter tampering and removal services with increasing frequency and, sadly, we have first-hand experience of the tragic circumstances that they can cause.

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“We are now engaging with communities to discourage this dangerous act and make people aware of the significant risks from energy theft and meter tampering.”

The call coincides with the Stay Energy Safe campaign from Crimestoppers, which urges contractors and consumers to contact them anonymously on 0800 023 2777 if they think a meter has been tampered.

Stay Energy Safe highlighted a case in Glasgow where a son arranged for his elderly mother’s electricity meter to be bypassed.

Tragically, this resulted in a fire which led to the death of his mother.

A subsequent investigation found that families in five of the eight flats in their block had all bypassed their meters to save money.