Avoiding Flood-Damage Car Scams

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on October 2nd, 2011

With Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee behind us, the auto market will undoubtedly see an increase in the number of flood-damaged cars available for sale. While most private owners and used-car dealers will do the right thing and register the cars’ titles as salvaged or flood-damaged, others will not.

Hoping to make a quick buck, some heartless folks will ship the cars to areas not experienced with floods, hire auto shops to do a few cosmetic fixes and unload them on unsuspecting customers. Of course, it’s illegal. And if your auto trim shop gets caught up in the mix, it could spell some serious legal consequences.

In a trade largely dependent on word-of-mouth marketing, the last thing you need is a reputation for fraud. But conspiring to cover up the traces of flood damage for a private party or dealer looking to sell a car without the proper paperwork will do just that.

Even if you legitimately do not know the car owner’s intentions, you may still be held liable. Depending on your level of experience in the field, as well as the circumstances surrounding the service provided, ignorance may be a poor defense.

Picture this: you have 10 years of experience as a professional auto trimmer and a dealer brings you a series of flood-damaged cars which he wants fixed quickly and cheaply. However, he always leaves a handsome tip. If it doesn’t sound suspicious, you aren’t paying attention.

Keeping your eyes open and asking questions can help ensure that you don’t become an unwitting accomplice to a scam.

So what should you look out for? Aside from shady businessmen:

  • Mud or mildew in odd places
  • Rusted interior screws, clips or other metals
  • Water stains and discolored upholstery
  • Damp carpets and seat foam that never seem to dry
  • Mold or musty odors

Of course, you shouldn’t turn away (or accuse) legitimate customers. Just be wary of involving yourself in a job that can put your shop’s reputation and livelihood at risk.

We want to hear from you: Have you encountered a such scams? If so, what advice can you offer fellow auto trimmers?

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