Thieves are coming up with new ways to make a buck. Instead of stealing your car stereo these days, they look for precious metals underneath your vehicle.
Deputies tell us that there is a rash in catalytic converter thefts in the Tampa Bay area.
Since 1975, all vehicles produced in the U.S. must have a catalytic converter as part of the exhaust system. It's an emissions-control device that acts as a catalyst.
When hot exhaust enters the converter, a chemical reaction renders toxic gases into less harmful emissions.
With the price of precious metals skyrocketing, thieves are stealing them. They apparently contain enough platinum, palladium or rhodium to make it worth the risk to cut it from the underbelly of your vehicle.
In the last six months, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said about 50 cases have been reported. Most times, the owner of the vehicle never realizes the car part is gone until hearing a loud roaring noise from their vehicle.
Stolen catalytic converters are sold to scrap yards for around $100 to $150. Thieves target vehicles that are parked for prolonged periods in large lots, like shopping centers, apartment complexes or company parking lots.
Vehicles that sit higher from the ground, such as trucks, pick-ups and SUVs, are most vulnerable. Deputies say it makes it easy for a thief to slide underneath without having to jack up the vehicle.
With just a few cuts of a battery-powered saw, the catalytic converter can be stolen in less than a minute.
So how can you protect yourself? Here are a few tips:
- Always park in well-lighted areas
- At shopping centers and other similar parking lots, park close to the entrance of the building or near the access road where there's a lot of traffic
- Engrave your license plate number on the converter to make it traceable.
There are also some helpful tips in this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwfV-z3mu5o
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