THIEVES have hit on a new scam to avoid paying for their gas.

But they are putting lives at risk by stealing gas meters from other properties to replace their own – only to put their own back before their meters are read – leaving them with low readings and reduced bills.

IT technician Andrew Smith, of Connah’s Quay, and his partner Hannah Lea were left without hot water or heating for two days after their meter was stolen.

The 31-year-old said: “I came home from work on Monday and realised the gas was off. I tried to turn it on but there was no supply.

“I phoned my gas supplier and they said to check the valve and when I went to see the valve was there but there was no meter.”

It took two days for a new meter to be fitted with the couple struggling to cope without their gas supply.

“It was a nightmare not having gas, you can’t do anything,” he said. “There was no gas for hot water, heating or cooking. I was quite annoyed about it.”

He added he had been told quite a few meters had been stolen since prices went up.

Andrew, who pays for his gas every month, said he was not being charged for the gas which is being used by the thieves and has now secured his new meter to stop it happening again.

Tim Field, a spokesman for the Energy Networks Association, said failure to install the meter properly could lead to an explosion.

He said: “There are very serious concerns. There is a big risk not just to the individual but to the network.

“They are putting people’s lives at risk.

“This is why there are people trained and able to carry out this work.”

A spokesman for Wales and West Utilities, the body responsible for gas meters in Wales, said: “Interference with a gas meter is a highly irresponsible and dangerous act that could put lives and property at risk.

“Meticulous meter identification records are kept and anyone stealing one for personal use would be caught and prosecuted.”