Buyer beware as water-damaged vehicles flood the market

September 12, 2017

Heavy rain and flooding caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has resulted in damage to hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks in the southern region of the United States.

Washington residents should exercise caution when shopping for used vehicles in coming months. Water-damaged vehicles are expected to be cycled back onto the national market at auto auctions and used car dealerships.

Water damage is not always obvious at first glance and significant mechanical, safety and health risks can go undetected.

Knowing how to identify signs of a flood damaged vehicle can help you avoid serious safety hazards and monetary loss down the line.

Floodwater causes rust and damages major mechanical parts and safety systems such as the engine, transmission, air bags and antilock brakes. Electrical systems are especially susceptible to water damage, because onboard computers are often located in low points of the vehicle.

How to avoid purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle:

  • Have a pre-purchase inspection completed by a trusted mechanic.
  • Look at the title to check date and location of transfer, if the car came from a flood impacted area and if the title is stamped “salvage.” Ask the seller if the car has been damaged by floodwater and request proof in writing on the bill of sale.
  • Use an online vehicle history tracking service to investigate the vehicle’s past. Examples: NICB, AutoCheck, Carfax
  • Check gauges on the dashboard for accuracy and visible signs of water damage.
  • Test lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner multiple times. Flex the wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack – wet wires will become brittle as they dry and can fail without warning.
  • Check trunk, glove compartment and under seats for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
  • Look for upholstery and carpeting that is discolored, fits too loosely or does not match the original interior.
  • Check for a well-defined water line and musty odors resulting from mildew.

For additional information on flood-damaged vehicles and how to spot them, visit this link.


Some drivers fooled by third-party license renewal offers

February 8, 2012

Several websites targeting drivers across the country are promising easy online driver license renewals, but appear to be delivering little except credit card charges.

These companies, which appear to be located in foreign countries, are using paid advertising results on the major Internet search providers like Google and Yahoo to lure customers away from the official Department of Licensing (DOL) website. This is leading to extra fees paid to unknown companies who appear to be offering little more than services already available for free using the official DOL website.

Customers have reported these sites are charging as much as $35 dollars for “customer service” assistance in renewing a driver license. In addition many of these customers suspect these sites have sold their personal information to others for marketing purposes.

DOL posted a video on YouTube this week explaining that these websites are not associated in any way with DOL.

Doing business online with DOL and other government agencies is fast, easy and secure, but know these simple tips to make sure you are doing business with us and not an imitator:

  • Access to DOL information and forms is free on the DOL website.
  • Whenever you look at search results, keep in mind that the first several results may be paid advertising. Don’t just click on the first link; take a moment to examine your search results and pick carefully. If you need to do business with DOL, choose one that includes our “wa.gov” domain in the website address.
  • Take time to read the fine print. These sites are taking advantage of the fact that people seldom read disclaimers on websites.

New license design, facial recognition to play latest role in stemming ID theft

April 27, 2010

By Tony Sermonti
A new look to driver licenses and facial recognition software will make it harder for identity thieves to do business in Washington.

new_driver_license_look

The new driver license look.

DOL is expanding the use of facial recognition technology, a security measure already used in the Enhanced Driver License program, to safeguard regular driver licenses and ID cards. Changes to the driver license are coming as well — by shifting the picture to the left side and adding an identical but smaller, shaded photo on the right, the licenses will be harder to fake. The new design will be phased in as people renew or replace, starting in June.

Essentially a math-based facial mapping system, the software creates unique facial “templates” based on each driver license or ID card photo to identify potential matches of the same face associated with different names. From there, Department of Licensing investigators take over the case, examining actual photographs and other information to determine if criminal activity, including identity theft, is occurring.

Investigators say most matches will be easily resolved; the results of marriages or legal name changes, while some will be clear cases of criminal activity. They’ve already linked one individual by photograph to 36 different identities.

The system can only be accessed by investigators with the Department of Licensing who have gone through extensive background checks.