W3 Intelligence Research Group, a licensed private investigation agency based in Canada, provides Auto Recycling World with an overview of the global challenges of catalytic converter theft and the possible solutions to this increasing problem.
Comprised of platinum, palladium and rhodium in design, catalytic converters (CAT) require on average anywhere between 2 to 30 grams of precious metals within their manufacturing. With the demand for precious metals increasing and the supply decreasing, it has driven the value of these metals to currently average $1,090.00 US per ounce for Platinum, $2,650.00 US per ounce for Palladium and $17,900.00 US per ounce for Rhodium as of early July 2021.
This has generated great interest and opportunities for CAT processors and recyclers to yield excellent financial returns. Many have taken to social media and classified platforms to solicit buying power advertising that they buy used CATs and pay anywhere between $635.00 and $1080.00 CDN per unit, often in cash. Organized crime groups (OCGs) are seizing the opportunity to cash-in on the theft and sale of catalytic converters, creating a new revenue stream within their ‘business model’.
Dealing with an item that is largely untraceable, thieves and OCGs yield significant returns on the theft of catalytic converters. Commonly armed with a cordless reciprocating saw, thieves can retrieve a targeted unit in 2 to 3 minutes.
For a larger return on investment, thieves and OCGs target the supply chain that includes manufacturers, suppliers, terminal operators, third-party logistics providers, and logistics & transportation providers intercepting the delivery of catalytic converters.
Taking advantage of any time that the cargo is at rest, thieves often focus their activities on weekends and holidays when commercial properties and facilities are more likely to be unattended. Nearly half of all cargo thefts occur between Friday and Sunday, with Friday being the most common day for theft. Compared to regular weekends, holiday weekends see more thefts when OCGs are more active.
In the UK, it’s reported that repairs linked to CAT thefts cost consumers on average more than £1,200.00 and subsequently can incur a significant increase in premiums.
Unfortunately, individually on their own, these crimes are often viewed as trivial. A cooperative approach with law enforcement benefits the community as a whole. Working together in a collaborative approach to ascertain the scope of crimes within their area using crime analytics may help determine if thieves are organized in nature. By employing private intelligence experts, it is possible to establish the connectivity of an OCG, such as the names of parties of interest, businesses, addresses, etc., which can open doors for further investigation by law enforcement.
Frank Cutruzzola, President and Director of Cyber Investigations at W3 Intelligence Research Group Inc.; notes:
“Daily, we are processing a broad scope of data provided to us for investigation from a comprehensive range of sources that insurers have collected. Supplementing that, we hone in on key parties of interest. Whether it be identifying individuals or suspect businesses, we employ highly specialized resources and processes to develop actionable intelligence through Social Media and Open-Sources online. This type of investigation commonly produces a holistic approach that provides the opportunity for better decision making for all stakeholders to reduce loss, resulting in cost savings for the consumer.”
With some self-regulated policies such as identifying sellers, documenting transactions, limiting the number of purchases from private “walk-ins”, and paying by alternate methods other than cash, CAT processors and recyclers can significantly impact deterring those engaged in illegal activities, including CAT thefts.
Consumers and businesses alike play a big part in reporting any suspicious people or vehicles, particularly in remote areas where vehicles might be left overnight. They can take several steps to help deter this type of theft by always parking in well-lit areas when possible, parking in a garage if one is available, parking as close to building entrances or roadways to maximize public exposure, purchasing one of many CAT security devices on the market, increasing the sensitivity on your car’s security system to more easily detect vibration, installing security cameras on your property, installing a protective shield/cage around your CAT, and engraving your VIN number onto the CAT to identify if stolen.
W3 Intelligence Research Group Inc. (W3 IRG) is a licenced private investigation agency in Canada supported internally by designated experts in Social Media and Open-Source Investigations. Serving insurers globally, W3 IRG works alongside government, NGO’s, corporations and law enforcement to maximize the investigative process in reducing fraud.