FRAUD ALERT October 2021
Protect Yourself From A Soggy Deal!
Unless you live in an area prone to flooding, you may not have to deal with the damage and devastation left as a result as those affected by floods do. The most recent hurricane, Ida, swept across our area and multiple states, and in its wake, left behind devastated buildings, homes, and vehicles.
What you may not realize is that, some of those flood damaged vehicles will be repaired and, ultimately, shipped out of their state and sold to unsuspecting consumers.
As always, you should be vigilant when buying a used car, but even more so now since it is very likely that we will see some of those previously, flood damaged vehicles making their way to and being sold throughout Bucks County.
Vehicles that have been identified as “totaled” by insurance company representatives and, as a result of flooding, are required to be issued a “salvage” title with the word “salvage” or “flood” written on it or, like many states do, will have an obscure letter or number code for identification purposes. There are some states, however, with lax regulations allowing “title washing”. Title washing is the act of obtaining an illegal title which hides details about a vehicle's past. This can range from skipping an owner who didn't sign the title to acquiring false documents to make a dirty title appear clean. Title washing results in a fraudulent car title. Although title washing is a federal crime, several states either allow it or don't enforce laws against it.
The long term effects of a water damaged vehicle can haunt buyers for years. While floods can damage many types of property, they are particularly harmful to automobiles. Water can wreak havoc on a car or truck, particularly its electrical system. It can also damage the engine, transmission, and cooling system. Moisture that collects in carpet, upholstery or interior liners can generate mold.
There are resources available to help you to avoid buying a water damaged vehicle such as;
- Carfax allows you to check the vehicles history. Carfax does not always have a history of the service records for a vehicle but, it is a helpful tool when purchasing a vehicle. Many auto dealerships will provide a copy of the Carfax, free of charge to potential buyers, so always ask to see the Carfax. It is a good tool to use to help you make a more educated decision of whether or not you would like to purchase a particular vehicle.
- The National Insurance Crime Bureau partners with insurance companies, consumers and law enforcement to combat insurance fraud and theft. They offer a free, basic check that searches vehicle identification numbers (VIN) numbers, although it doesn’t use as many data sources as some paid providers do.
- The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is designed to protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to keep stolen vehicles from being resold. NMVTIS is also a tool that assists states and law enforcement in deterring and preventing title fraud and other crimes. Carfax offers a free flood damage check along with the vehicle history report it sells, therefore you would have to purchase the vehicle history and the flood check is an added bonus.
A consumer’s best course of action is to have a detailed inspection performed by a mechanic that you trust.
Monthly Fraud Alerts brought to you by: Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force