Flood Damaged Vehicle Fraud Prevention

The east coast is still recovering from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and other heavy rain events. The succession of storms and hurricanes this season have resulted in fleets of vehicles being inoperative from flood damage. Unscrupulous car dealers are notorious for turning around these flood damaged vehicles and selling them to unsuspecting buyers. As a result the National Insurance Crime Bureau has released this list of Flood Vehicle Fraud Prevention Tips.
Here is what they recommend:

  • Select a reputable car dealer.
  • Inspect the vehicle for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpets, floor mats, headliner cloth and behind the dashboard.
  • Check for recently shampooed carpet.
    Inspect the interior upholstery and door panels for fading.
  • Check for rust on screws in the console or areas where water normally doesn’t reach.
  • Check for mud or grit in the spare tire compartment, alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.
  • Check inside the seatbelt retractors by pulling the seatbelt all the way out and inspect for moisture, mildew or grime.
  • Check door speakers as they will often be damaged due to flooding.
  • Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing it.
  • Ask about the vehicle’s history. Ask whether it was in any accidents or floods.
  • Inspect the title and ownership papers for any potential or questionable salvage fraud.
  • Conduct a title search of the vehicle.
  • Look under the hood for signs of oxidation. Pull back rubber boots around electrical and mechanical connections for these indicators: Ferrous materials will show signs of rust, Copper will show a green patina.
  • Aluminum and alloys will have a white powder and pitting.
  • Trust your instincts: If you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away!

If you are concerned the vehicle you are looking at may have been declared salvage from flood damage, you may want to check out our previous post, Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car for specific ways to confirm this, such as researching your car’s Vehicle Identification Number for a history report. Also if you discover a car dealer who is committing this type of fraud, make sure you inform the NICB at 800-TEL-NICB.

Even if you aren’t shopping for a vehicle you should be concerned about the aggressive flooding this year. According to The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory the Atlantic Hurricane Season lasts until November 30th, meaning there is still a chance of even more flooding that could affect your car your home.
Take steps to protect your property. Your car insurance may cover more than you think but homeowners beware: flood damage is not covered by most homeowners policies, you would require special flood coverage. Contact your insurance agent to ensure that your vehicle and your home are protected against any future flood damage before it’s too late.