Its been a year since Hurricane Sandy ravaged communities throughout New York and scammers are still trying to profit by the large numbers of water-damaged cars that were left in the debris.
The Federal Trade Commission warned reports that more than 250,000 cars were left badly damaged after Sandy. Out of this number, 212,000 of these cars have been marked as “flood damaged”. Sadly, professional scammers have been cleaning up these cars and trying to resell them in towns outside of where the flooding took place.
For the most part they are getting away with this, because you can’t see the damage. But underneath the shiny exterior exists extensive internal damage caused by salt water, which is corrosive. Besides water damage itself, dirt and sand have also been found in the interior components of the car, such as engine and brakes.
To help spot a car with storm-related damage, the FTC suggests consumers:
- Check to see if they can find discoloration or mineral deposits on seats, seat-belts or doors, and the warping of door panels.
- Look for silt under carpeting, in the area where the spare tire is kept, as well as fogging or water drops in areas including the lights and dashboard.
- Use the sniff test, not only for a foul moldy smell, but for cleaners and deodorants.
- Be sure to get a vehicle history report since cars that are re-registered in other states can appear to have a clean title, even if they had been considered “salvaged” — meaning an insurer considered it a total loss.
- Have a professional mechanic inspect the vehicle to be sure it is in proper working order and check for any signs of water damage in electrical components and other potential trouble spots.
To obtain a vehicle history report — typically about $10, you can visit the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Justice, and get access to data from several providers. In addition, the National Insurance Crime Bureau offers access to its database of flood-damaged cars for free. You’ll need the vehicle identification number (VIN).