Beware Barry Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Receding flood waters reveal opportunities for fraud

DES PLAINES, Ill., July 17, 2019 — The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning the nation’s consumers that vehicles flooded by Barry 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 companies, law enforcement, and auto auction companies to identify the vehicles that have had an insurance claim filed. Most of the vehicles are sold to parts companies who will dismantle them and re-sell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding.

The vehicle identification number (VIN) of vehicles that have been damaged by Barry will be searchable through NICB’s free VINCheck® service as well as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database.

VINCheck allows car buyers to see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as “salvage” or a total loss by an NICB member that participates in the program. 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 stolen and is still unrecovered.

“Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by this storm. Insurance companies and agents will be there to help you in the recovery process. However, when tragedy strikes criminals have the tendency to swoop in and scam consumers especially when it comes to the resale of flooded vehicles,” said Brooke Kelley, NICB’s communications vice president.

“Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up, and then taken out of state where the VIN is switched and the car is retitled with no indication it has been damaged.”

NICB warns that buyers be particularly careful in the coming weeks and months as thousands of Barry-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 an unscrupulous 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.

NICB Consumer Tips:

  • Look for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats, and dashboard, and in the wheel well where the spare is stored. Look for fogging inside the headlights and taillights.
  • Do a smell test. A heavy aroma of cleaners and disinfectants is a sign that someone's trying to mask a mold or odor problem.
  • Get a vehicle history report. Check a trusted database service. You can check NICB’s free VINCheck database.
  • Have a trusted mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.

Follow NICB on social media and use the hashtag #insurancecrime where we will continue to share important tips as the recovery processes in the southeast.

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.

Media Contact

If you have a question, want further information on the NICB, or to discuss insurance fraud or vehicle crime, please contact:

Joe Brenckle
Director, Public Affairs

Nicholas Zeitlinger
Public Affairs Specialist

If you are a reporter and have a request or question, please complete the Media Request Form.

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 Oak Brook, 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-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit