Fraud Articles: Hurricane warning issued for used cars
Source Name: Charleston Daily Mail
With hurricane season starting in the South and lingering devastation from last year's storms, West Virginia officials are warning about hurricane-damaged vehicles on the market.
The state is working with several national agencies to keep an eye out for flooded cars being brought into the state for sale. They already have spotted a few that made it into the chain of commerce here.
"What we've really done is tried to be pro-active," said Glen Pauley, director of vehicle services for the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
"It could be a long time before we know how many of them are out there, and where they've ended up. You don't know how many vehicles got out of there before things got really bad, and you don't know how many are coming out every day."
The American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators estimates that more than 500,000 vehicles that were flooded or damaged last year during Hurricane Katrina will end up for sale somewhere in the country.
Right now, the association has notified administrators in all 50 states of only about 150,000 vehicles identified as Katrina-hit cars and trucks. Their vehicle identification numbers have been recorded in a nationwide computer system, and they are cross-checked every time a transferred title for a recently purchased car passes through the West Virginia DMV office.
"We have had a few that we've identified as possibly being Katrina vehicles, but it's really hard to assess the damage and tell buyers exactly what happened," Pauley said.
Each time the office gets a hit, they have to permanently brand the vehicle's title to let current and future owners know the property might have been damaged during the New Orleans storm.
Savvy consumers also have been calling the DMV before sealing any used car deals just to make sure they're not getting flood-damaged goods.
A few situations stand out.
One West Virginian was looking to purchase a boat on E-bay. The product listing gave a good price but said the cruiser might need some engine work. The buyer made a call to the DMV and officials found the boat had been declared damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Pauley went so far as to say that anybody buying a used car right now might want to be wary. The state listed on a car's title might give few hints about whether it was stuck in a storm.
"It's not just vehicles titled in Louisiana we have to look for," Pauley said. "You had a lot of tourists down there, you had a lot of trailers down there and you had rental cars from all over the place coming and going for weeks."
According to information released by the National Auto Dealers Association and Carfax, car parts taken off hurricane-damaged cars are even more likely to be sold throughout the country at auctions and online. The groups began warning in February that the problems had begun and that anyone buying used parts -- from body and engine parts to tires and electrical components -- should double-check their source.
Consumers and used car dealers who are wary have a couple of options.
The Web site of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (http://nicb.org) has an entire section devoted to hurricane vehicle and boat fraud. By using the search function, a potential buyer can look up the vehicle identification number (VIN), found on the title, to see if it's been registered as a Katrina vehicle.
More information can also be obtained by calling the DMV at 558-3900.
Wednesday June 14, 2006
Daily Mail Capitol reporter
Daily Mail Capitol reporter
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