San Diego company offering two-part protection plan for vehicle owners, including unique identification numbers, to shield them from ballooning thefts. - IMAGE: Getty Images/BanksPhotos

San Diego company offering two-part protection plan for vehicle owners, including unique identification numbers, to shield them from ballooning thefts.

IMAGE: Getty Images/BanksPhotos

A San Diego-based finance and insurance provider executive created a product to combat growing catalytic converter thefts.

Brian Murphy, president of Auto Prime Financial Services, introduced SAFECAT, which marks converters with vehicle identification numbers and triggers reimbursements for stolen exhaust-system devices.

Converters attract thieves, who covet the expensive precious metals used to make them, such as platinum, and can often sell them for hundreds of dollars each on the black market.

The thefts have been rising; the National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that the exhaust system device theft rate rose 326 percent in 2020 and 353 percent in 2021. Replacing them can cost up to $2,500.

The value of some metals used to make the devices has exploded. For instance, 40 percent of palladium is sourced from Russia, so the war in Ukraine has disrupted its supply.

Thieves often target SUVs and pickups because they’re easier to scoot underneath to steal the devices, and converters have heretofore been hard to trace. With SAFECAT, the devices get a VIN registered in a national database.

Auto Prime also offers vehicle owners warranties to replace stolen converters.

A bill has been introduced in Congress to require that new vehicles’ converters have identification numbers stamped on them and to make theft and trafficking of stolen devices a federal crime.

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