MIAMI (CBS4) – South Florida’s getting another number one ranking for motor vehicle fraud, but there are ways for local consumers to avoid becoming the next flood car victim according to local and national insurance fraud investigators.

If you don’t look too closely, it looks like new a new Mazda Coupe that would probably be priced much lower than expected.

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But Tony Fernandez of the National Insurance Crime Bureau says you better look under the hood a little closer and explains, “The engine looks like it’s been underwater, there’s rust all over the place.”

It’s one of the estimated 250,000 cars ruined by Hurricane Sandy’s flood waters. Investigators tell CBS4 there’s a new flood of them making their way down here.

If you think Hurricane Sandy flood cars look like they’ve been through a Hurricane and look like a wreck, CBS4 Chief Consumer Investigator Al Sunshine tracked down a 2012 Honda Accord with only two miles on it at a local used car lot.

It was a ”Sandy Flood Car,” and he said it looks like it could be a pretty good deal until he looked inside and found it had been flooded and the interior was stripped out and rusting.

CBS4 asked NICB’s Tony Fernandez, “Are we the first in the country where this is happening?”

He answered, “Yes, No question in my mind on that.”

As our exclusive investigation found, under current Florida law, it’s not illegal to sell a rebuilt flood car as long as it’s fully disclosed to buyers.

But auto-theft investigators worry that not all potential buyers for the “Sandy” cars will be told they are buying essentially rebuilt wrecks, exposed to severe salt-water water damage that may never be able to be fully repaired.

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What does that mean for local consumers?

Tony Fernandez said, “They’re going to be buying cars that are not safe. They’re going to be buying cars that are damaged, and they’re going to lose their money.”

So what can we do to make sure we don’t end up with one?

Jorge Herrera is a consumer protection supervisor for Miami-Dade County and warned, “They need to check the VIN on these vehicles, and see whether or not there’s anything suspicious. They also need to look at the vehicle and see if there’s any damage that is visible. Sometimes in case of flood vehicles you can certainly tell that a vehicle’s been flooded by looking at the rust damage.”

And here’s another reason why these flood cars are keeping hitting local chop shops so busy: CBS4 has learned a lot of them are being rebuilt for the export market and could soon be flooding used car lots throughout Latin America.

If you believe you may have bought one locally, contact your local police department.

Need more information? Check out the links below.

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