Volume 2 Number 41
October 10, 2005

Consumer Services HelpLine Number 800-342-2762

Scam Artists May Try To Sell Flood-Damaged Cars in Florida
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, cautioned Florida’s consumers and auto dealers to beware of buying used vehicles that may have originated from areas flooded by Hurricane Katrina, and potentially Hurricane Rita.  Officials estimate that 350,000 vehicles were flooded in New Orleans alone from Hurricane Katrina, and up to 500,000 vehicles could have sustained flood damage throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama from this storm.  Many of these vehicles are shipped to other states, including Florida, through car wholesalers.
“While most states, like Florida, require vehicle titles to bear brands of ‘flood vehicle’ and ‘salvage/rebuilt,’ some wholesalers may intentionally transfer titles to avoid branding since it diminishes a vehicle’s value,” said Gallagher.  “The unsuspecting consumer doesn’t know whether the vehicle has been totaled or even adequately repaired, potentially putting loved ones in danger.” 
The Florida Department of Financial Services has partnered with Carfax.com to give consumers and auto dealers the ability to check vehicle identification numbers (VIN) of cars previously registered in FEMA-declared flood-disaster areas.   The Car Check: Check out a Vehicle’s History link is now available at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.  The search is available to Floridians at no charge. The VIN number is found on the inside of the driver’s door or on the lower left corner on the inside of the windshield.
Gallagher said that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will also be unveiling a system to allow Floridians to verify if a used car was deemed totaled by hurricane flooding.  That service is expected to go online in the coming weeks and will also be available through www.MyFloridaCFO.com
Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services which investigates and prosecutes insurance fraud.  Insurance fraud can be reported to the Division of Insurance Fraud by calling 1-800-378-0445.