Your Home or Car May Get Ransacked Soon. Here’s why…

By Lee Bellinger / November 12, 2013

Imagine returning to your car and finding the rims missing. Or suppose you came home to find your plumbing had been ripped out and stolen. melting metal It’s happening way more than you think!

The striking rise in metals thefts across America is yet another sign that broad confidence in dollar-denominated paper assets – and in general society itself – is on the decline. It’s akin to when rats appear on the deck of a sinking ship, a harbinger of something very bad coming! And when street thieves and other lowlifes make it a point to steal raw metals from cars, catalytic converters, and old buildings – that too is a harbinger.

Thanks to relatively high commodities prices in metal, abetted by a devaluing currency and a persistently weak economy, otherwise boring, dirty, and used hardware like steel fencing, copper phone wire, plumbing pipes, and aluminum siding are lucrative targets for thieves.

Crooks steal this hardware from homes, autos, small businesses, non-profits, and directly from public infrastructure and then sell it as scrap. And, even at scrap prices, these commodities fetch a handsome sum; enough to make it worth the crooks’ trouble.

The problem is so bad that the scrap recycling industry has its own website, ScrapTheftAlert.com, that covers both Canada and the U.S. where members report and track potential metal thefts. According to the website, crooks didn’t take a break for the Christmas and New Year holiday. Metal-related thefts took place in Detroit, Florida, Colorado, California, Philadelphia, and more.

Nothing Seems to Stop These Scavengers…

  • In the first 60 days after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, police arrested 10 people for stealing scrap metal from wrecked homes and businesses;
  • Some thieves are targeting wrecked, abandoned or unattended vehicles on roadsides. The ScrapTheftAlert website listed a non-functioning motorcycle that fell off a truck, which may have been picked up by a metal recycler, as stolen.
  • During the holiday season, 143 lbs. of stolen brass cemetery vases were sold in Maryland. At about the same time, two bronze mausoleum doors and the bronze crypt handles were stolen from a cemetery in Ohio;
  • A whole car was stolen from a parking lot during Denver Broncos game and listed as a possible scrap metal theft;
  • In one case, a thief used a fake ID and stolen credit card to acquisition $6,000 in steel fencing, most likely to sell as scrap;
  • Air conditioning units from unattended model homes were stolen during the holidays. Beware: metal thieves have been targeting vacant homes and stealing electrical wiring, copper plumbing, air conditioning units, and anything else that can be sold for scrap;
  • During New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, catalytic converters from trucks were reported stolen in Tennessee.

A Few Tips to Deter Rim
and Catalytic Converter Theft…

Based on security camera recordings, authorities know tire thieves work in teams. One person acts as the look out, while one or two others jack up the car, remove the wheels, and roll them away – an entire set of wheels in less than 10 minutes!

Custom rims and chrome wheels can retail for $1,400 or over $5,000 for an entire set, not even counting the value of tires. The scrap value is much less but still worth the risk for street thugs who have no interest in doing an honest day’s work.

Aluminum wheels can fetch about 67 cents a pound. 20-inch aluminum rims weigh about 27 pounds, making a set worth $70. Stealing 10 sets on a “busy” day brings in $700, or potentially $3,500 in a week. Larger and wider truck rims are worth much more. Here’s what you can do to stop them:

  • Locking lug nuts are an inexpensive and simple deterrent. You can find them in any auto-parts store for less than $20. Removing a locking lug nut is supposed to require a special adapter key, but unfortunately, universal removal kits are easy to purchase. But locking lug nuts will still slow down potential thieves, meaning they’re more likely to pick a different vehicle and leave yours alone.
  • One tip: use two locking lug nuts per wheel. Crooks have learned to remove all the standard nuts first, and then pry the wheel off the remaining locking nut. This damages and breaks the stud, leaving you with an additional repair bill along with needing to replace all your tires and rims!
  • Park your vehicle in a closed and locked garage. Or, alternatively, park where there is enough vehicle or foot traffic to deter thieves;
  • Install lights and motion detectors in the parking area and consider a motion sensor car alarm;
  • If you own custom-made wheels, ask your insurance agent if you can get additional coverage for them;
  • Consider sticking with standard run-of-the-mill tires. Larger or high-end tires can invite theft of both tires and wheels.

The catalytic converter is a federally mandated component of your vehicle’s exhaust system. The material inside it often includes platinum, palladium, or other rare metals. Stolen “cats” can fetch $50 to $300 at scrap yards, but can cost you $3,000 to replace – possibly more if the thief damages your vehicle while stealing it.

Trucks, SUVs, and other high-clearance vehicles are popular targets because they give the thief more room to slide underneath with a relatively quiet, battery-powered saw or simple wrench and remove the catalytic converter. Here’s how to stop catalytic converter thieves from running off with the precious metals in your car:

  • Add an undercarriage-perimeter alarm to your vehicle(s) can help dissuade a thief trying to crawl beneath your car;
  • Park your vehicle in a closed and locked garage, or park where there is enough vehicle or foot traffic to deter thieves;
  • Install lights and motion detectors in the parking area and consider a motion sensor car alarm;
  • After-market “cages” are available that surround the catalytic converter in steel wire and make it more difficult to remove with a wrench or cut off;
  • Finally, you could weld the catalytic converter onto the vehicle’s frame. If you choose this route, beware that if you need to repair or replace it, you or your mechanic will have just as hard a time removing the catalytic converter.

You Could Make A Mint
with Metals Too (Legally!)…

You can make money on metals the legal way. Many families are recycling aluminum beverage containers, like soda cans. The Aluminum Association announced that the year-over-year recycling rate increased by 7 percentage points to 65.1%

Raw materials should be a part of a well-balanced portfolio. The debasement of the U.S. dollar and the misallocation of dollars into bailouts, social programs, and bureaucratic government jobs only make economic matters worse. The depreciation of the U.S. dollar, in which most commodities are priced, makes the case for investing in commodities and related stocks even more compelling.