US authorities estimate thousands of vehicles were damaged from Hurricane Sandy and some try to conceal this from buyers, a non-profit group says.
Joe Wehrle, president of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a non-profit organization aimed at preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft, said in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the NICB worked with law enforcement in Louisiana and Mississippi to inspect hundreds of thousands of vehicles damaged by floodwaters.
"Unscrupulous salvage operators and dealers often try to conceal from potential buyers the fact that vehicles have been damaged by a natural disaster," Wehrle said in a statement.
Potential for post-Hurricane Sandy fraud also exists with unscrupulous towing companies who may take advantage of consumers and insurance companies, Wehrle said.
The NICB established a consumer protection service known as VINCheck(SM), which allows individuals to check to see if a vehicle has ever been declared as salvage by one of our participating member insurance companies, Wehrle said.
It also alerts users if a vehicle is an unrecovered stolen vehicle. VINCheck remains a free service available to the public at www.nicb.org.
"Fraud is an unfortunate reality in post-disaster environments," Wehrle said. "As the initial recovery from Hurricane Sandy begins, there are people right now who are planning to converge on the affected areas in order to scam disaster victims out of their money while promising to do repairs."