Most people wouldn’t think twice about securing their car’s catalytic converter but lately the piece of exhaust hardware has become a popular target for thieves trading in precious metals. Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, as much as $200 worth, and as commodity prices rise so does the chances of your converter being stolen.

Police across the U.S. say they have seen a dramatic rise in thefts of the components in recent months, reports MSNBC, and it only takes a thief about a minute to remove the device. Scrap metal dealers are paying top dollar for the metals and they’re selling them at even higher levels, said tow driver Jack Bell.

A thief could make between $2,000 and $3,000 in an hour from stealing converters at a crowded carpark. “These thieves are targeting shopping malls, school parking lots, busy business districts, and they are hitting these places in the daylight,” said Jennifer Krings, a spokeswoman for AAA. “A lot of the large passenger cars — SUVs, trucks and vans — have two, so those are a target.”

Experts say it can be dangerous to drive a car with a missing converter. On some cars, if the exhaust pipe gets off near some wiring or a fuel line or a gas tank, there is a possibility of a fire or an explosion. Fortunately, it's very easy to detect if your converter has been stolen. If the converter is removed from the exhaust pipe, usually in the center of the car and before the muffler, then the noise of the exhaust will be much louder than normal.