Aurora, CO

Aurora cracks down on gift card fraud, catalytic converter theft

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Aurora, Colo.) The Aurora City Council voted Monday to classify gift cards as second-hand property.

The item lies buried in legislation that also declared catalytic converters second-hand property. As of mid-July, 384 catalytic converters had been stolen in Aurora so far this year, according to Aurora police.

By declaring gift cards and catalytic converters second-hand property, the city is requiring the sale and purchase of those items by second-hand stores to be logged into a system called Leads Online. “Leads Online is the most commonly used national reporting system for secondhand property available to law enforcement,” according to a memo from Licensing Manager Trevor Vaughn to council. “After the City and County of Denver introduced a recent ordinance to require reporting to Leads Online, Denver council members made statements encouraging other municipalities to do the same for a regional approach to the (catalytic converter) problem.”

State law also declares catalytic converters second-hand property, but it does not require reporting to Leads.

Gift cards sold for cash

Like catalytic converters, gift cards contain trackable numbers. Scammers try to get people to pay them with gift cards. Other people steal gift cards and sell them for half their value.

“Secondhand gift cards are often tied to retail theft and multiple kinds of fraud,” Vaugh reported to council. “Criminals take advantage of the secondhand market to convert the
gift cards to cash. Adding specific clarity to the definition will assist with enforcement.”

Scrap yard only buys from businesses

The city has one full-time scrap buying operation, according to Vaughn. “That operation has discontinued buying catalytic converters from end consumers and will only accept them from business operations,” Vaughn reported. “The city does have an auto shop that
purchases catalytic converters and ships them out of state. There is the potential other buyers will be discovered and the requirement to license and report can be enforced.”

Councilmembers Gardner and Marcano, who often have differing opinions, requested the ordinance be brought forward by city staff.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

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