Auto Loans, Insurance

Car Title Fraud Abounds with Vehicles Damaged by Superstorm Sandy

Fraud is something we have to deal with everyday.  There are those who have little concern for their fellow man, and they would rather cheat their way to a profit.  Unfortunately, the honest trusting people are often the easy targets.  Scam artists know this and they prey upon them.  An old scam that is rearing up again as of late is car title fraud.  When a car has been damaged significantly, it is required that the title be amended to show that the car has been salvaged.  However, scammers can find a way to get around a lot of these issues.

When the car is totaled or flooded, the next buyer is warned about it by the notation on the title.  If the title is given to them for review, and they choose not to look it over, it may be sleazy sales practices but it is not illegal.  However, many unscrupulous dealers and sellers will find ways to get around this salvage title notation.  For instance, when Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast, there were thousands of cars that had flood damage.  Those that had been totaled were recorded in the national database at the National Insurance Crime Bureau, but many of the vehicles still looked whole.  So instead of being scrapped, they were, and are still being, resold.

As soon as the waters receded these cars were dried out, cleaned up, and put out for sale.  Many people in the area knew not to buy a used vehicle because the potential of getting a damaged one was too high.  So those seeking to make a quick buck would ship the vehicles to other states, claim a missing or lost title, and have the vehicle get new title work, without the damage indication, and sell them claiming the car had never been damaged.  The minor cosmetic damage is easy to cover up, but the major damage to the engine will be a lasting problem to the new owner.

Fortunately avoiding this scam is fairly simple.  Take some time to check the VIN against the list on, it is quick and free.  Run a vehicle title report, Carfax is a popular choice.  If you really want the car, spend a little to take it to a third party mechanic to have it looked over.  Finally, before making any decision, give it your own once over.  Check under the floor mats for mold, smell it for musty smells, look for signs of rust, and check to make sure all the components work flawlessly.  If something doesn’t seem right, walk away from the deal.  You are better off without a car than one that has flood damage.

As long as people are interacting, there will be those who exploit others.  But by being aware of your surroundings, and knowing about the popular scams, you can protect yourself.  It only takes an additional 30 minutes to check your purchase over.  Doing so will help to save you a lot of money in the long run, and even more frustrations that will come along with being a victim.