Some of the best advice I've been given this week comes from Junior, a friend who is a skilled auto mechanic. In case you weren't aware, catalytic converter theft is a problem getting worse in Massachusetts. Here on the SouthCoast, it's a growing setback financially for the owner.

When a thief crawls under your vehicle and saws off the converter that he'll get up to $200 for. Junior said if your catalytic converter is stolen, the first thing you should do is call the police and report the theft. Then call your insurance provider, who may cover some of the high costs if you have comprehensive coverage, minus your deductible.

They say there's no gold in the converters, but figuratively, I beg to differ. They do contain platinum, rhodium and palladium that when ground up can can fetch about $6,000 per converter, because of the sky-high prices on precious metals.

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The price of rhodium alone, for instance, is about $28,000 an ounce.

The long and short of it is that replacement is high-priced, between $1,000 and $2,475 including parts and labor. That might be close to your car's value and it's an added pain in the backside that we don't need.

I asked what we could do to protect our vehicles and he said the local jump in stolen converters has some SouthCoast repair shops improvising antitheft measures, like welding a couple of thick bars of strong metal onto the converter, or purchasing a "cat shield" for about $135, giving you that extra layer of protection. Thieves like quick and easy jobs, so when they see any kind of antitheft protection that will take them a long time to saw through, they move on to the less protected vehicles.

Across the country, states already have laws addressing scrap metal thefts, but the black market and sales to foreign countries is keeping this a very lucrative business. I remember, we also experienced sort of the same kind of misery when thieves would slip under a house and saw off copper pipes for profitable scrap.

I know, we don't need yet another headache, but the problem is getting worse and you should be made aware of what's going on around here, with regard to this hustle.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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