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Federal Car Database Urged in Response to Katrina
Key members of Congress push for a federal database of automobiles to prevent title fraud.

Flooded car
A bipartisan group of lawmakers saw a federal database with the registration information for every automobile in the country as an appropriate measure to prevent the fraudulent resale of cars damaged in the floods that followed Hurricane Katrina. A U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee examined the issue in a hearing yesterday.

"I think we should pursue a legislative draft," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas). "This looks like an issue where something needs to be done."

An estimated 600,000 cars were damaged in gulf coast flooding. Committee leaders believe many of these vehicles will have evidence of the damage done to the car eliminated through a fraudulent practice known as "title washing."

"It seems inevitable that a few bad actors will seek to spread the misery of the hurricane by shining these vehicles up and selling them to gullible buyers in states far far from the Gulf of Mexico," Barton said.

Congress in 1992 established a National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, but only about thirty states participate and only about half of the nation's Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) are on file. Barton called for legislation to implement the program nationwide.

"It seems to me that the problem of title fraud is one that can be solved, or at least greatly reduced," said Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Florida). "We need to engage the private sector data industry and their best practices to find better ways to inform and protect consumers."

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