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If you see a car for sale and the price looks too good to be true, you are probably right.

The Texas Department of Insurance is warning the public about scam artists who are going to take advantage of a used car shortage by selling flood-damaged vehicles they purchase at a salvage auction.

The vehicles were damaged a month ago after flooding in Louisiana and southeast Texas.

“A used car shortage is driving prices up, so it’s more important than ever to be informed and know the signs of water damage,” said Doug Slape, Texas Department of Insurance’s chief deputy commissioner.

Slape said “scam artists will buy salvage cars at auction and resell them to unsuspecting buyers. Once an engine gets waterlogged, it’s almost impossible to ever make it right.”

Here are some tips from the Texas Department of Insurance you can use before purchasing a vehicle to determine if it was a flooded vehicle:

Look for signs of water damageStains, mildew, rust, and discoloration are signs of water damage. Look for dirt or debris under floor mats, carpet, and around the spare tire. Mold and mildew give off a musty odor; if you notice a strong smell of cleaner or disinfectant, it could be an attempt to cover up those odors.

Check the title

When a vehicle is declared a total loss, the title must be changed to a salvage or non-repairable title. You can ask to see the title, and a vehicle history report will list the status of the title.

Check the VIN

The National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a free service called VINCheck. Enter the vehicle identification number, and NICB will show if that vehicle has been stolen or listed as a total loss.

Have a mechanic look it overFlood damage isn’t always obvious. Have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle. Before you buy a car, research used car dealers online to find a reputable one.

Check used boats, RVsBoats, RVs, and campers damaged by floodwaters also appear on the resell market. It’s a good idea to follow these same tips when you buy a used vehicle or boat.

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