Recent years oil thefts have increased due to exceptionally harsh winters and higher fuel prices.
The trend is expected to continue during the colder, darker months of January and February with the number of thefts increasing as home-owners replenish their tanks.
The Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) – the body representing the oil heating and cooking industry – is urging home-owners to take precautions to protect their fuel oil.
"Unfortunately, oil is a valuable asset so this is a problem we're seeing more frequently," said Malcolm Farrow, of OFTEC.
"If more people are aware and vigilant of oil thefts in rural communities, hopefully there will be fewer victims of this crime."
The post-Christmas period, with people feeling the pinch after the festive season, made the early new year a popular time for thieves to strike.
Although average oil prices have fallen over the 12 months, home-owners are still paying much more for oil than they were five years ago.
Over the last five years rural households using oil have seen a 23% average increase in oil prices, less than gas and electricity which have risen by a substantial 58% and 40% respectively.
But oil is easier to steal than mains gas or electricity – especially in isolated rural areas where thieves can syphon fuel from a tank and drive away before they are spotted.
Many victims remain completely unaware that anything is wrong until their heating stops working because they have run out of oil.
Mr Farrow said: "The fuel tank can be damaged in the process of theft so it's not just the cost and inconvenience of replacing the oil that users need to be aware of.
"In extreme cases a new tank is required which can leave someone without heating for several days and with quite a hefty bill."
"The good news is that there are some simple things that can be done to limit the risk of theft, such as fitting lockable caps and installing a security light to deter thieves."
Electronic level gauges and alarms are also very effective in alerting someone to a sudden drop in their oil level, said Mr Farrow.