Wading Through the Floods: Damaged Cars,
Hurricane Car Scams.
Are you in the market for a new or used car? If so, be careful
of cars that were damaged by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita. According
to press reports, tens of thousands of cars in dealers’
lots were flood-damaged and it’s likely the cars’
electrical systems have been corroded by floodwaters. Normally,
the dealers’ financial losses are covered by insurance.
However, the cars aren’t always destroyed; some are purchased
for resale by auto brokers.
Most states require flood damage to be noted
on a car’s title, but if the damaged car is moved out
of state, it may be sold without the full and correct title
information. Many states like Wisconsin allow dealers to sell
damaged cars that may not be legal to operate on our highways.
Wisconsin law provides some protection if
you buy the car from a dealer, but not if you buy from a private
party. According to state law, dealers must display what is
known as the “Wisconsin Buyers Guide” window sticker
on the car. The guide should indicate how the car was used;
any title brands noting whether the car was rebuilt, flood damaged,
or brought back under the state Lemon Law; and the condition
of the car and its safety equipment. Be aware that the dealer
is not required to take the car apart to check it before it
is sold to the consumer.
State law only requires the dealer to tell
you about existing car damage it detected, so you should have
the car checked out by a trusted mechanic before you buy. I
strongly recommend you protect yourself by buying the car’s
history report from www.carfax.com
prior to signing on the bottom line. The report will cost you
$19.95 and may save you much more down the road.
Hurricane Charity Scams.
Many of us have contributed to hurricane relief through our
church, workplace, civic organizations, or in response to direct
fundraising drives by various charities. But federal and state
consumer protection agencies warn us to be careful when contributing
because thieves are attempting to take advantage of our generosity.
The FBI is investigating a number of websites being used to
impersonate legitimate fundraising and charitable relief organizations.
You should never click on any link in an e-mail solicitation;
you may end up at a site that looks authentic but is really
operated by an identity thief. The Wisconsin Better Business
Bureau website, http://www.wisconsin.bbb.org,
lists legitimate charities and their websites.