The latest scam to spawn from the recession and rocketing fuel prices is the targeting of diesel and home heating oil tanks by siphoning thieves.
This has become 'rampant' in the west, according to garda sources, and listening to radio phone-in shows, it is a problem countrywide.
Unoccupied holiday homes and schools, vacant at the weekend, are being targeted, as are homes when the owners are at work or asleep in their beds.
Most disturbing are reports where thieves ring the oil supplier from the phone number sticker on the tank and order a fill, which is quickly siphoned off after delivery.
Criminal gangs are using vans with specially fitted tanks and electric pumps to get away with the liquid bounty, which can be sucked off from central heating tanks in a matter of minutes.
This is a very wicked and nasty crime as all householders are suffering the biting recession and can ill afford a fill of oil if their tank is emptied in this way.
At current prices, 1,000 litres of home heating oil costs at least €800 and the price is set to rise further because of the Middle East crisis.
Precautions can be taken, like fitting locks, but this could inflict additional costs to the homeowner if the thieves cut the outlet pipe.
A suggestion by Councillor Noreen Heston, a member of Castlebar Town Council, that the public keep only a minimum supply of fuel in their tanks is not a runner.
If this was implemented over the period of harsh weather in December and January, many fatalities would have been recorded as tanks dried up and oil companies were unable to deliver for periods.
Siting tanks in inaccessible areas or having them fitted with a protective cage would be a deterrent, but could prove costly.
The installation of CCTV and motion sensor lighting or monitoring devices that alert the owner if the tank is being interfered with is the only forward. Of course, a good guard dog is always a reliable deterrent.
Because heating oil is the new gold it has become much in demand on the black market.
Any suspicious activity around houses should be reported to the gardaí and where possible, take the registration number of any vehicles involved.
It is a sad state of affairs that the most vulnerable are being targeted in this latest sting.
It is important where these thieves are apprehended by the authorities that the courts deal with them in a manner befitting the crime with jail sentences, the forfeiture of their vehicles and equipment and monetary fines.
Unfortunately, if quantities of home hearing oil are seized it will be virtually impossible, without the cooperation of the thieves, to restore it to the proper owner.