Mississippi Acts to Protect Buyers from Flood of Flooded Vehicles

DES PLAINES, Ill.–The Mississippi Insurance Department and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association have teamed up to protect residents from buying cars damaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Following the two storms, officials say thousands of flood-damaged vehicles have made their way from Texas, Louisiana and Florida into Mississippi to be eventually sold to unsuspecting buyers. Many of the cars have been sold to unscrupulous dealers or dismantlers who will clean them up, retitle them and sell them for a quick profit. According to the Mississippi Insurance Commissioner, Mike Chaney, the biggest threat is from cars that were not insured for flood damage.

“While those insured cars may show up in NICB’s VINCheck® database, the ones that didn’t have insurance are likely to be sold by the original owner for a few hundred dollars and then cleaned up and retitled by an unscrupulous dealer who will resell it for a few thousand dollars with no indication that the vehicle suffered any flood damage,” said Chaney. “It’s truly a buyer beware situation.”

In an effort to stop these kinds of sales, the Insurance Department and repair shops that are members of the state’s Collision Repair Association are working together to offer free inspections for potential buyers.

“If you’re thinking about buying a used car, let one of our members check the car to verify that it has not been in a flood,” said John Mosely of Clinton Body Shop and the Mississippi Collision Repair Association. “In addition to checking the hidden areas of the car for signs of damage, we can also run a scan of the car’s computer system to look for any codes that might indicate it had been exposed to water.”

“We applaud this cooperative effort to keep consumers from being scammed,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “Far too many vehicles that were flooded were not insured and if they go undetected, they can end up being a financial disaster for the buyer as well as a potential safety hazard.”


25 Days of Fraud Facts: The Birth of VINCheck

Throughout the month of December, NICB will be focusing on the 25 days of Fraud Facts. These quick videos, involving insurance fraud, are about cases or stats you may not be aware of.

Day 4: The Birth of VINCheck

To view more episodes of the 25 Days of Fraud Facts click here.

Beware Harvey Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Flooded cars near the Addicks Reservoir in Houston, TX. (David J. Phillip, File/Associated Press)

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning the nation’s consumers that vehicles flooded by Hurricane Harvey may soon be appearing for sale around the nation.

After a disaster, NICB works with its member companies, law enforcement and auto auction companies to identify the vehicles that have had an insurance claim filed and to process them for sale. All of the cars, deemed to be a total loss, will be retitled with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the new title will indicate the fact that the vehicle has been flood damaged. Most of the vehicles are sold to parts’ companies who will dismantle them and re-sell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding.

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is also entered into the NICB’s VINCheck® and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database.

NICB’s VINCheck 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 the program. Insurers representing about 88 percent of the personal auto insurance market provide their salvage data to the program. It also alerts users if a vehicle has been stolen and is still unrecovered. VINCheck is a free public service available at: www.nicb.org/vincheck.

Keeping damaged cars out of the hands of unsuspecting buyers is a major focus of the industry. Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up, and then taken out of state where the VIN is switched and the car is retitled with no indication it has been damaged.

NICB warns that buyers be particularly careful in the coming weeks and months as thousands of Harvey-damaged vehicles may reappear for sale in their areas. Vehicles that were not insured may be cleaned up and put up for sale by the owner or an unscrupulous dealer with no disclosure of the flood damage.

Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic or repair facility before handing over any cash.

Consumer Resources

NICB in the News: Purse-Snatching, Vehicle Thefts and Used Car Buying

(lohud.com)Man swiped purse from Bronxville church-goer

A 34-year-old Bronx man faces charges after police say he distracted a Bronxville church-goer in order to steal her purse.

Anton Nrecaj was arrested on Friday and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny, a felony, in connection with the July 11 incident at the Church of Saint Joseph, Bronxville police said.

Read the full story here.

(Journal-Advocate)Increase in car theft prompts “Lockdown Your Car” campaign

In observance of National Auto Theft Prevention Month, Coloradans Against Auto Theft (CAAT) is launching a statewide public awareness campaign, reminding drivers about the importance of not making themselves an easy target for car thieves. The “Lockdown Your Car” campaign informs the public about the domino effect that often occurs when a car is left unlocked.

Read more here.

(KPNX-TV)Make sure you do your homework before buying a used car

Used car salesman tactics have been the butt of jokes for years, and chances are you’ve probably heard some horror stories. But don’t let that stop you from buying a used car.

Consumer Reports has some great tips to help protect you from buying a dud. And some of these tips can also come in handy if you’re buying a new car.

View the video here.


Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Later: Birth of VINCheck – Part 5

In today’s final installment, see how NICB’s “Katrina Flood Vehicle Database” grew from an internal inventory and claims processing tool into VINCheck—the nation’s first free vehicle history and consumer protection service based on insurance claims.

Ten years after Katrina, VINCheck remains the most visited page on the NICB.org website.

Sandy Flood Vehicles May Wash Up in Distant States

With any significant flooding event many vehicles get inundated with water. Whether it’s for a few hours or several days, exposure to water is unhealthy for a vehicle’s electronic components. With the count of damaged vehicles from Sandy already at 230,000—the risk of flood vehicles entering the commerce stream as used vehicles is high. Even as programs like NICB’s VINCheck and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System have come online since Hurricane Katrina to prevent this sort of fraud, the possibility still exists for individuals to take flooded vehicles and resell them to unsuspecting consumers.

While the threat from this kind of scam is very real, consumers can protect themselves by following these tips.

VINCheck–Seven Years of Free Consumer Protection

Even as much of New Orleans remained underwater from Hurricane Katrina’s rampage, NICB went about preventing another calamity–the expected flood of water-damaged vehicles being sold to unsuspecting consumers around the nation. With estimates of Katrina-damaged vehicles approaching half a million units, NICB realized the public safety challenge that many of these vehicles would present if not quickly identified and tracked.

So it was against that backdrop that our member companies were asked to participate in a voluntary vehicle identification number (VIN) tracking project. Most of our member companies saw the benefit not only for public safety but for positive public relations that such a venture would inspire and they agreed to assist.

Thus the “Katrina Flood Vehicle Database” was launched on NICB’s website on October 17, 2005. It was an industry first and gave consumers unprecedented, free access to insurance company claims data on vehicles and boats that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

This resource was an immediate hit with consumers and numerous local, state and federal agencies and private sector entities across the nation linked their websites to NICB’s to allow their constituents easy access to this resource.

On November 7, 2007, NICB expanded this service to include information on unrecovered stolen vehicles and renamed it–VINCheck. In June, 2008, VINCheck was expanded yet again to provide data on vehicles that have been previously declared as salvage by participating NICB member insurance companies.

As it nears its seventh birthday, VINCheck remains the most visited page on NICB’s website receiving in the last 12 months over 1.6 million page visits. It is also frequently referenced in all kinds of media from local talk shows to national network radio and television stations and cable outlets.

A consumer recently posted her thoughts on our “Tell Us Your VINCheck Success Story” link on the NICB website. Here is an excerpt:

“It [2011 Mazda3i] had few miles and the seller kept telling me that the title was clean. He seemed suspicious though, and the price was a little too low. I decided to look up the vin number and through this site [VINCheck] I found out that it had had a salvaged title. The seller had been lying to me each time I asked. I didn’t purchase from him because he had lied repeatedly and didn’t know what else he could be lying about. I’m so glad that this site is around. It gives you the basic information for free! But the basic information was just enough to help me with this particular car. It then advises you to have the vehicle inspected if you are still thinking of purchasing it, and advises to have a full report done so you can see all the details. This site was easy to use, extremely useful, and free. I use this site on all vin numbers of vehicles that I am seriously contemplating. It has made my car search less intimidating. Thank you!”

This consumer is exactly the kind of person we had in mind back in 2005 when the Katrina Flood Vehicle Database came to life. We’re happy to say that today’s VINCheck continues to provide that same free access to millions of vehicle records–all made possible by participating NICB member companies and NICB’s 100-year commitment to fighting insurance crimes and vehicle theft.

For the price–nothing!–VINCheck remains the best vehicle history service in existence.