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Expert Warns Of Increase In Flood Damaged Cars After Superstorm Sandy

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By Robin Rieger, Mike DeNardo

MORGANVILLE, N.J. (CBS) – Superstorm Sandy left a roller coaster in the ocean and flooded countless homes and businesses. In many cases, homeowners left behind vehicles that got washed out too.

Raymond Martinez, chairman of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, says insurance claims for 60,000 vehicles were filed after Sandy.

“In New Jersey alone we’ve seen about 60,000. In December alone we saw a 6000 percent increase in flood and salvage vehicle titles,” says Martinez.

Eric Kanefsky, acting director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs says thousands of them go to auto insurance auction lots including one in Morganville, New Jersey, where he says only registered scrap dealers can by them.

Unfortunately other flood damaged cars may end up on car lots for sale. Martinez offers a warning. He says it’s not illegal to sell a damaged vehicle, but it is illegal, if you try to hide that fact.

“In some instances it’s the actual owner of the vehicle that knows that the vehicle was damaged but doesn’t want to disclose that,” Martinez said.

And that’s consumer fraud. Car shoppers can now go to a new state registry that lists vehicle identification numbers of cars already processed by insurance companies as flood or salvage titled.

“At this point we already have 13,000 vehicles in this database. We’re going to continue to periodically update it and keep it up on our website,” said Kanefsky.

Car buyers should look carefully at the cars title status to make sure it doesn’t have a F for flood, S for salvage or look altered

“Use a vehicle history report,” said Martinez. “There’s multiple vendors out there that do that, where you can say ‘hey, why has this vehicle been titled in multiple states in a short period of time?’ That’s an indication that it might have been a washed title”

Officials say use a licensed car dealer, have a mechanic check the car and look closely to see whether the car’s title was doctored.

“Overtime the vehicle itself will start to corrode,” said Martinez.

For more information visit: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/floodedcars.

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