FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: September 20, 2017
ATTORNEY GENERAL CONTACT: Andrew Roth-Wells
TELEPHONE: (207) 626-8887
SECRETARY OF STATE CONTACT: Kristen Muszynski
TELEPHONE: (207) 626-8404
Attorney General Janet Mills and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap offer resources on damaged vehicles
Mills and Dunlap inform consumers how to check vehicle history to avoid flood damage
AUGUSTA In light of the anticipated high volume of flood-damaged automobiles in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap recommend that consumers inform themselves about their rights before purchasing a used vehicle.
After past hurricane events, authorities reported truckloads of flooded vehicles being taken out of the impact zone where they were dried out, cleaned and readied for sale to unsuspecting consumers in states that do not brand flood vehicles. It is estimated that due to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, as many as 1 million flood-damaged automobiles could be passed on to unsuspecting buyers in the coming weeks and months.
We encourage prospective purchasers to be aware of their rights and the resources available to them from Maine and the federal government, said Attorney General Mills. The Office of the Attorney General and the Secretary of States Office both fight to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices and offer resources for consumers to access before buying a vehicle.
The Maine Office of the Attorney General has consumer information available specific to purchasing new and used vehicles in Maine. Consumers can also utilize the Attorney Generals Consumer Mediation Service by calling 1-800-436-2131 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maine also fully participates in the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), an online system used to verify and exchange vehicle history data among DMVs, law enforcement, prospective purchasers and insurance carriers. The system allows consumers to guard against title fraud and unsafe vehicle purchases, and to prevent stolen vehicles from being resold. The Bureau of Motor Vehicle uses NMVTIS to check if a vehicle has been reported stolen, or if it has been identified as a "junk" or "salvage" vehicle.
The floods caused by or associated with these hurricanes have resulted in severe water damage to thousands of vehicles that can make electrical systems and airbag sensors prone to failure. By capturing into one system specific information from multiple entities such as state motor vehicle departments, insurance carriers, salvage auto auctions, automobile recyclers, and junk and salvage yards, NMVTIS offers states and consumers protection from title fraud and potentially unsafe vehicles.
The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles is committed to protecting the public from motor vehicle crimes through its Office of Investigations, a law enforcement unit that handles an average of 4,000 cases a year, including title fraud, automobile theft, insurance fraud and registration evasion.
Complaints or concerns about fraudulent titles and other motor vehicle-related law violations can be directed to the Office of Investigations by filling out the complaint petition form on the BMV website or in person at a BMV office.
In the wake of a natural disaster such as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, consumers need to be especially vigilant when buying a used car, said Secretary Dunlap. We encourage all buyers to review the title of the vehicle closely, reference the online title information system, and have the vehicle inspected by a certified mechanic prior to purchase.
Secretary Dunlap also suggests that consumers review the BMV Used Car Buyers Guide, which is available on the BMV website as an animation and as text.