Throughout the cleanup operations, GEICO and other insurers worked with state and local agencies and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to tag severely damaged vehicles by entering VIN numbers into national and state databases.
“The whole idea is to protect consumers from costly hidden problems and to prevent fraud,” said Rick Hoagland, vice president of GEICO claims.
Steven Rutzebeck, director of GEICO’s special investigation unit said, “Damage caused by flooding can sometimes be hard to identify, and there are unscrupulous sellers who will take steps to conceal the damage cosmetically. Buyers should ensure the vehicle is in proper condition prior to making a purchase.”
GEICO recommends these steps for buyers before closing a sale:
- Check VIN numbers on the NICB site – Go to www.nicb.org and check to see if the VIN number for the vehicle you want to buy is in the database. The site is free to access as a service to the public.
- Check with your state’s DMV – Go to your state’s department of motor vehicles and request a title history report on the vehicle.
- Run a history report of a used vehicle – Search online services that offer detailed vehicle history reports.
- Get a pre-purchase inspection – Have a professional examine the vehicle and ensure that any damage has been accurately documented.
- Look carefully at the title – Beware if the title is in an insurance company’s name or shows a history of flood damage. Proceed with caution if the car has been titled several times over a short period or has been registered in a flood-affected area.
- Examine the vehicle – Look for signs of flood damage such as visible grit, rust or mold under the dashboard, in the engine compartment, in the trunk and on the vehicle’s undercarriage. Be on the lookout for mismatched or stained upholstery and take note if the vehicle has a musty odor or if carpeting has been shampooed. Turn on the car and test warning lights, gauges, wipers, turn signals, windows, heat and air conditioning.