Two years after Hurricane Sandy flooded their homes, thousands of New Jersey residents now face a new disaster—unwittingly driving flood-damaged cars.
Data from CarFax, the company that compiles vehicle histories on used cars and trucks, shows that New Jersey leads the nation in "title-washing."
In this scam, professional con men don't just remove outward signs of damage from cars—they also remove all indications of damage from cars' titles. According to CarFax, they move cars from state to state and are, ultimately, able to present a buyer with an unblemished title. Sold to unsuspecting consumers, the cars may have serious hidden damage.
There may be as many as 80,000 title-washed cars on New Jersey roads. Not all were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The scam encompasses all types of accidents and wrecks. But a spokesperson for the state Motor Vehicle Commission blamed the storm for the increase in title-washing incidents in the state.
CarFax recommends purchasing from a reputable dealer and having a reliable mechanic take a look at the car. More research to a car's history can also uncover attempts at fraud.
Since February 2013, New Jersey motorists have been able to consult an online database. The site enables consumers to search for cars by Vehicle Identification Number, make, model and year to determine whether it was in a flood or accident.
Dealer fraud, misrepresenting a car's history, concealing water or collision damage, and other types of deceptive business practices, are illegal under Pennsylvania and New Jersey law. If you have been a victim of misrepresentations about the condition of your vehicle, an experienced Lemon Law attorney can help you gain the upper hand.