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Gone in 90 seconds: catalytic converter thefts on the rise again

November 15, 2010

Catalytic converters are an easy and valuable target to thieves. However, by following sound loss prevention practices, businesses can minimize risk and save thousands of dollars in potential losses.

In mid-2008, insurers and the National Insurance Crime Bureau noticed an increasing trend of catalytic converter thefts across the country. It can be very costly for auto dealers and aftermarket businesses if the issue is not addressed.


In addition, many insurance policies are carrying higher per-vehicle deductibles and higher per-occurrence deductible aggregates which require the insured to reimburse the insurer up to an agreed-upon amount annually before the insurer pays for losses. Therefore, customers may end up paying the full cost of replacement until they meet their aggregate amount.


Low risk and high reward attract thieves to catalytic converters. Converters can be removed quickly, often in less than two minutes, with only a wrench (for converters that are bolted on) or a reciprocating saw (for converters that are welded in). And because thieves can "work" undetected under the vehicle, converters can be stolen in broad daylight.


In addition, thieves no longer have to steal an entire car for a nice payday. The majority of converters  manufactured today contain three precious metals – platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Depending on which metal was used, thieves can sell converters to metal recyclers for $20 to $200 each. Recyclers can resell the extracted precious metals for thousands of dollars per ounce.


Targeted vehicles include just about any pick-up truck or sport utility vehicle that sits high enough off the ground to allow an individual to slide under it without a jack. Particularly attractive to thieves are newer vehicles that have two converters.


Loss Prevention Tips


• Park vehicles in a well-lit area with a high volume of after hours traffic
• Eliminate use of off-premise lots to park vehicles unless security is present
• Implement detailed lock-up procedures for securing doors, gates and fences
• Hire security guards – be sure to research security companies and select reliable companies with good references and a proven track record
• Install a video surveillance system
• Conduct thorough background checks of employees