A stainless steel exhaust with catalytic converter. (Photo: Vanagon Blog via Flickr)

Police warn residents of two newly common threats: a scam that involves police themselves, and an increase in catalytic converter thefts.

Catalytic converters, part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, are wanted by thieves nationwide because they contain precious metals and can be sold for scrap. The Cambridgeport neighborhood saw catalytic converter threats Jan. 16-17; another surge of thefts hit the Wellington-Harrington and East Cambridge neighborhoods over the past two weeks – all involving 2004-2009 Toyota Prius models.

Officers have increased their patrols in the locations and times when thefts have been reported, the department said. In addition to taking obvious steps such as parking in well-lit areas close to where many people pass by, police advise that drivers:

  • Install a catalytic converter-specific security device, or have the catalytic converter welded to the vehicle’s frame. Drivers can also engrave a vehicle identification number on the catalytic converter.
  • Adjust a vehicle’s security system to activate from vibrations, such as those produced by a saw.

In addition, police got a spate of reports Tuesday about a phone scam in which people – mainly seniors – seem to be getting calls from (617) 349-3300, which is the non-emergency business line for the Cambridge Police Department. The callers ask for bank information, Social Security numbers and dates of births due to “investigations into open criminal cases” involving residents.

A police department or law enforcement agency will never call a resident and ask for their personal or financial information over the phone, police said.

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