Victim Buys Flooded Pickup that Went from Florida to Texas

DES PLAINES, Ill. – A young man who bought a pickup truck in Houston is now warning buyers to follow the advice of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) before closing a deal on a used vehicle.

Kenton Basinger shelled out $14,000 for a 2012 Chevy Silverado that normally would sell for about $18,000. But the good deal he thought he was getting quickly turned into a nightmare when he realized he had purchased a pickup that had been flooded.

Watch our video here.

The NICB was contacted by the investigative reporter at KPRC-TV in Houston after the victim went to them for help. NICB determined the pickup was originally in Florida and appears to have been up for sale at a dealer there when Hurricane Irma hit the state with devastating winds and rain. The pickup was not insured at the time and no claim for flood damage was ever made. So the vehicle did not have a salvage title and did not appear in the VINCheck® database that consumers can go to see if an insured vehicle was given a salvage title.

Instead, the truck eventually ended up in Texas where it was sold at auction with a clean title. Basinger purchased the truck from the dealership that had bought it from the auction.

Because of the thousands of uninsured vehicles that were flooded during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last year, NICB recommends potential buyers have a vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic before buying it to ensure that there is no concealed or hidden damage.

Basinger began to notice problems within days of buying the vehicle. The engine light came on and the power windows stopped working. He took it to a mechanic who said it looked like the truck had been flooded. NICB and the TV news crew were on hand to have it inspected by a trusted mechanic who found numerous signs of flood damage, including possible damage to the electronics that set off the airbags during a crash.

NICB noticed sand and debris under the bed liner and water and moisture under the floor carpets. Rust on the undercarriage had been covered up with spray paint.

Basinger has hired a lawyer and is negotiating with the dealership to get his money back.

He advises consumers to follow NICB’s advice and leave it to a professional to examine the vehicle before you buy.

KPRC-TV’s report is here.

NICB’s tips on spotting flooded vehicles before you buy:

1. Check vehicle carpeting for water damage
2. Check for rust on screws or other metallic items
3. Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains
4. Remove spare tire and inspect area for water damage
5. Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence
6. Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture
7. Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water
8. Check the operation of electrical components
9. Check for mold or a musty odor
10. Have it checked by a trusted mechanic to spot concealed or hidden damage and to run a diagnostics test.

Over 637,000 Vehicles Damaged in Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Flooded vehicles have finally stopped arriving at the Royal Purple Raceway east of Houston. Some 23,000 now await processing and retitling to be auctioned off for parts or to be scrapped. That is just one of several insurance industry salvage locations where more than 422,000 insured vehicles damaged by Harvey have been taken for processing. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), these totals surpass the number of claims that resulted from Hurricane Katrina (approx. 300,000) and from Superstorm Sandy (250,500).

In addition, more than 215,000 claims have been filed following damage to vehicles from Hurricane Irma in Florida.

These insured vehicles will be processed and rebranded with a salvage title and sold at online auctions to dismantlers who will save usable parts or have the vehicle crushed and sold for scrap.

The VIN numbers are entered into the NICB’s VINCheck database, which is free to the public and will indicate the vehicle has been damaged and branded. They are also entered into the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).

Unfortunately, owners of even more vehicles no longer carry comprehensive coverage that covers flood damage and those vehicles are not part of the system. The owner should request a new branded title but that may not happen. In fact, many flooded vehicles that weren’t insured will be cleaned up and sold with no indication of any damage.

Some unscrupulous buyers will also buy a branded vehicles, clean it up, and take it to another state where they will obtain a “clean” title and sell it with no warning that it has been flooded.

Anyone looking to buy a vehicle in the weeks and months ahead should be on the lookout for hidden flood damage. Here are some tips.

  1. Check vehicle carpeting for water damage
  2. Check for rust on screws or other metallic items
  3. Inspect upholstery and seat belts for water stains
  4. Remove spare tire and inspect area for water damage
  5. Check the engine compartment for mud or indicators of submergence
  6. Check under the dashboard for mud or moisture
  7. Inspect headlights and taillights for signs of water
  8. Check the operation of electrical components
  9. Check for mold or a musty odor

A sea of flooded vehicles pack a raceway outside of Houston, Texas.

Aerial Imagery from Harvey and Irma Available to Public

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) announced today that it will make available to the public high-resolution aerial imagery of areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. By going to this link and typing in an address, a before-and-after comparison will be available if the property is in an affected area that has been surveyed from the air. Harvey damage is available and imagery from Irma will be posted when available.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), whose member companies write over 80 percent of all property/casualty insurance and over 90 percent of all auto insurance in the country, has been developing a system that leverages its ability to rapidly respond to catastrophes.  The system utilizes a full array of digital imagery, both on the ground and in the air, which will provide high-resolution views of properties on an address-by-address level to assess the damage.

NICB and its partners now have the capability to gather before-and-after street level and aerial views of impacted areas, and provide that information in a platform that insurers can incorporate into their existing systems to quickly view and assess damage to their policyholders’ homes, businesses and even vehicles. This same imagery will be provided at no cost to emergency personnel to assist them in their response efforts. The information will also be invaluable in fighting fraud in the aftermath of a disaster.

NICB is working with partners, such as Vexcel Imaging, the premier aerial imaging company worldwide, and Esri, the global provider of GIS mapping and spatial analytics software. NICB has created the Geospatial Intelligence Center to oversee these efforts. Eventually, the plan would be to do imaging on the ground and in the air in some 100 markets on a regular basis, and being able to respond immediately on a 24/7 basis when a catastrophe strikes to provide comparisons that will assist in damage assessment.

“This technology takes the industry response to a catastrophe to a whole new level,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “The response to our initiative has been overwhelmingly positive based on feedback I have received during my meetings with emergency personnel, law enforcement and our insurance company members in Texas. We believe it is also important to share this with those who have been impacted by the Hurricanes.”

NICB’s long history of a strong working relationship with emergency and law enforcement personnel has made this possible. The Texas Department of Public Safety and other local and federal officials have enthusiastically supported this effort, and provided NICB with access and support during the Harvey response.

For an in-depth look at this program, click here to watch our video.