Scrap Metal Thieves Give Industry A Bad Name

Theft is a is a constant problem in the scrap metal industry. News stories of men being electrocuted to death trying to cut copper wires and cables, thieves cutting AC units from churches to scrap them, houses being stripped of copper pipes and the list goes on. Scrap prices have increased recently and it seems there are more cases of scrap being stolen around the US and Canada.

Increasing Prices Mean Increasing Theft

With scrap prices, particularly copper prices hitting 3-year highs this year, theft will increase. Scrap theft creates a problem for those that make an honest living from recycling scrap metal in their region. Thieves begin to see the metal prices increasing and start to steal material from job sites, homes, and businesses. With the increasing scrap metal prices, theft seems to spike across North America and it greatly affects the industry.



Effects of Scrap Metal Thieves on the Industry

Scrap metal theft directly affects many people and businesses, including a bad reputation for the scrap industry. Below are some examples of direct effects scrap metal theft has on the scrap industry as a whole.

Changing Scrap Laws

The iScrap App has referenced the scrap metal laws guide and how state laws are constantly changing to combat theft and regulate customers and scrap yards. Local and Federal Government laws are always battling scrap metal theft and have made progress with different policies. Many new policies in states across the US have helped law enforcement locate and arrest thieves.

Some of the examples that are taken to prevent scrap metal theft are:

  • Fingerprinting – Some states require fingerprints when selling scrap metal to yards.
  • Driver’s License Scanning – Many states have a policy in place to take a scanned copy of driver’s licenses when selling scrap.
  • Photos & Videos – Some states require photos and/or videos to be taken of those selling materials to scrap yards.
  • Check Payments – Scrap yards in certain states are required to pay scrap metal receipts out by check and not cash.
  • Licenses Professionals – Some states require licensed professionals to show proof for some materials. For example, in Georgia only certified HVAC Techs can sell air conditioner units.

Bad Reputation for Honest Scrappers

One of the biggest complaints the iScrap App Community hears, is the aggravation that thieves cause honest scrappers. Most scrappers and scrap yard customers are hard-working and looking to make some extra money by recycling their metals. Unfortunately with thieves taking advantage of the system, scrappers have a bad reputation for “stealing” and appear more suspicious by scrap yards and law enforcement. Most scrappers are honest about the materials they are selling, usually noting they are contractors, plumbers, electricians, or another profession that yields scrap.



Scrap Yards Get Bad Reputations

Another victim of thieves are scrap yards. When buying materials from the public and following the proper laws in place, scrap yards are often the ones that get questioned first by law enforcement. It gives yards a perception that they “allow” thieves to bring materials in. Unfortunately, there is no 100%-sure method to know what materials are stolen when brought to scrap yards. Therefore it is difficult for yards to know what is stolen and what is legitimate scrap metal. This sometimes can create tension between scrap yards and law enforcement.

Most established and locally known yards have great relationships working with law enforcement because they don’t want to risk their own business. With common laws for selling scrap like scanning ID’s, photos, and signatures help law enforcement get the information they are looking for when working with yards.

Stereotypes by Public

With the local news channels and newspapers reporting cases of scrap metal theft, it puts a bad taste in the mouth of the public when it comes to the scrap metal industry. The general public may not be knowledgeable in the scrap metal laws and the process of recycling metal, it’s easy for them to make a general assumption. This also goes along with the scrap yards in the area, it can create a stereotype mindset that scrap yards help “support” these thieves.

What Scrappers Can Do

These frustrations are a result of thieves in the scrap industry, leads to the important question, “how can theft be prevented?” For those that make extra cash honestly with scrap metal, there are several things you can do to prevent yourself from being a victim of scrap metal theft and give the industry a better name.

  • Don’t Tell Anyone – When you are storing your materials at your house or business for a trip to the local scrap yard, don’t tell anyone. This won’t put you in a position to let people know you are holding onto copper, brass, wire, or other valuable material.
  • Lock It Up – Be sure to lock your truck, garage, or shed where you are storing your materials to be safe.
  • Be Honest  – Don’t try to cheat your scrap yard and be honest with the materials you are bringing them. If you are caught they are going to label you as a thief and it cause you a headache.
  • Get Permission – If you ask a home owner, business, or any other place if you can have their scrap, it would be a good idea to get written permission that you allowed to have it. This can be beneficial in those “just in case” scenarios to save yourself a headache.

Tell us about your experiences with protecting your scrap. Even if your story has a bad ending, it could help a fellow scrapper from making that same mistake.

Suggested Reading: 6 Preventative Measures for Scrap Metal Theft


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