It's estimated that more than half a million cars were flooded and damaged as a result of the hurricanes in fall of 2005 and many may be making their way into the used-car market all over the U.S. and sold without being titled properly. Impacted vehicles may have been submerged in salt water, covered in mud, and contaminated with toxic chemicals. Consumers can take simple steps when buying used cars: schedule an inspection with a certified mechanic, obtain a vehicle history report from a nationally recognized provider such as CARFAX, verify the title with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles, and check the vehicle identification number in the National Insurance Crime Bureau's database.
"We're advising consumers to use the same due diligence they normally would when purchasing a used vehicle and working to arm them with additional, current information when we become aware of it," said Alan Smith, vice president of customer service. “The addition of Flood Damaged Vehicles Tips highlights this potential scam for everyone who visits our site.”
In addition to the beefed up online tips, AutoTrader.com has created a toll-free fraud hotline – (877) 742-8040 – for consumers to call and report suspicious activity as well as extended Customer Support hours for even better service. Consumers can continue to send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. The fraud hotline is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, Monday through Saturday.