If you live or work in Texas and part of the South-Central U.S., you’re likely trying to recover from record-breaking rains and widespread flooding. You’re probably prepared to deal with damage to buildings, but are you ready to deal with the damage to your car as well?
Fortunately for vehicle owners, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is assisting law enforcement agencies, insurance companies and car rental companies with identifying and cataloging water-damaged vehicles to keep them from being resold to unsuspecting consumers. As of the end of May, authorities estimate that thousands of vehicles may have been flooded.
“Unfortunately, natural disasters bring out dishonest salvage dealers who don’t tell you that the vehicles they’re selling are heavily water-damaged,” said NICB president and CEO Joe Wehrle.
“Consumers need to know that these vehicles may appear advertised for sale without any indication that they were affected by the flooding. As always, buyers should be careful when considering a used vehicle purchase in the weeks and months following a disaster like this,” he added.
Check the salvage data
In the months following Hurricane Katrina, NICB agents worked with law enforcement officials to inspect thousands of vehicles damaged by flood waters. From those efforts, NICB established the consumer protection service known today as VINCheckSM. The service allows car buyers to see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as “salvage” or a total loss by an NICB member that participates in VINCheckSM. (Insurers representing about 88% of the personal auto insurance market provide their salvage data to the program.) Users also are alerted if a vehicle has been stolen and is still unrecovered. VINCheckSM is a free public service available at NCIB’s website.
NICB encourages those entities required to do so by law to report flood-damaged vehicles to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), which currently includes information on 96% of all U.S. vehicles. Currently, 44 states report data to the system, which contains approximately 20 million salvage or total loss records.
Fraud schemes abound
Be on the lookout for other post-flood fraud schemes such as towing companies that try to pressure you into using their service and then charge you exorbitant towing and storage fees, NCIB warns. If your home or business is damaged, you should be alert to the potential for fraud by unscrupulous contractors and home repair businesses.
“Fraud is an unfortunate reality in post-disaster environments,” said Wehrle. “As the initial recovery in Texas gets underway, fraudsters are already scheming to converge on the affected areas in order to scam disaster victims out of their money while promising to do repairs. The last thing victims of disaster need is to be victimized again.”
Resources for consumers
- For a free brochure with tips to avoid post-disaster fraud, click here.
- For useful checklists, including how to spot flood and salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, click here.
- For free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies (who collectively provide 88% of the auto insurance currently in force) access NICB’s VINCheckSM.
If you have information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft, you can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting the keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on NCIB’s website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.
For more information about Tampa auto insurance, give Northside Insurance Agency a call at 813-960-5225 today!