This past Summer, many parts of the U.S. saw record rainfall and damaging flooding. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning consumers that vehicles flooded by these storms may soon be appearing for sale around the nation. NICB urges caution – don’t rush to buy a used vehicle, especially if the price looks too good to be true. 

After a disaster, NICB works with its member insurance companies, law enforcement, and auto auction companies to identify the vehicles that have had an insurance claim filed. All vehicles deemed to be a total loss will be retitled with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the new title will indicate the fact that the vehicle has been flood damaged. Most of the damaged vehicles are sold to parts companies who will dismantle them and re-sell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding. However, it’s important for consumers to know some criminals will attempt to sell these flood-damaged vehicles to unsuspecting buyers. 

NICB’s VINCheck® helps prevent this from happening. NICB's VINCheck is free lookup service provided to the public to assist in determining if a vehicle may have a record of an insurance theft claim, and has not been recovered, or has ever been reported as a salvage vehicle by participating NICB member insurance companies. Before you purchase a pre-owned vehicle, be sure to run the vehicle identification number (VIN) through NICB VINCheck

A History of Helping When Disaster Strikes

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, NICB agents worked side by side with law enforcement officials to inspect thousands of vehicles damaged by flood waters. As a result of that unprecedented effort, NICB established a first-of-its-kind consumer protection service known today as VINCheck. It allows car buyers to see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as "salvage" or a total loss by an NICB member insurance company that participates in VINCheck. Insurers representing about 88 percent of the personal auto insurance market provide their salvage data to the program. It also alerts users if a vehicle has been reported stolen by an NICB member insurance company and is still unrecovered. 

NICB warns that buyers be particularly careful in the coming weeks and months as thousands of flood damaged vehicles may reappear for sale in their areas. Vehicles that were not insured may be cleaned up and put up for sale by the owner or a dishonest dealer with no disclosure of the flood damage.  

Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable technician or repair facility before handing over any cash. 

Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Vehicle

VINCheck information is made possible through the cooperation of participating NICB member companies and is available, free of charge, as a public service to consumers. VINCheck is provided pursuant to NICB’s Terms of Service. The data contained in the VINCheck database is provided AS IS. NICB does not independently verify the information contained in the VINCheck database and NICB expressly disclaims all warranties related to the information, including merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The VINCheck database contains only those salvage, stolen vehicle or total loss records made available by participating member companies. The end user should independently verify the accuracy of any information obtained through VINCheck before taking any action.

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $582 billion in insurance premiums in 2021, or more than 82% of the nation's property-casualty insurance. That includes more than 96% of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more, visit www.nicb.org.