Odometer fraud is the act of altering or rolling back the mileage reading on a vehicle to make it appear as though it has fewer miles than it actually does.

Lower miles = more money.

This dupes unsuspecting buyers of their hard-earned cash by falsely claiming a higher market value on a vehicle that isn’t so.

This is a common scam that can happen when buying a used car, and it can lead to serious problems down the line.

Unscheduled maintenance, repair, and possible breakdowns.

We’ll show you how to protect yourself from odometer fraud and what to do if you suspect that you have been a victim of this scam.

Table of Contents

Common Ways Scammers Commit Odometer Fraud

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Scammers have become quite sophisticated in the ways they rip off their customers. While using old-school techniques they’ve also implemented new technologies in efforts to advance their ill-gotten profits while hiding their crimes.

Rolling Back The Odometer

The most common way scammers commit odometer fraud is by physically rolling back the odometer.

This can be done using a device known as an odometer rollback tool or by disconnecting the odometer and manually turning back the mileage.

It’s an old-school method in a digital age but you’ll be surprised how often it’s still done.

Replacing The Odometer

Another way scammers commit odometer fraud is by simply replacing the odometer with one that shows lower mileage.

This can be done by purchasing a used odometer with lower mileage from a salvage yard or online from sites like eBay and swapping it with the original one.

Just like that Voila! Lower Mileage.

Disabling The Odometer

Some scammers may disable the odometer so that it does not record any mileage.

This can be done by disconnecting the odometer or tampering with the speedometer cable.

With certain makes If you can get a hold of the vehicle early when it has low mileage, disconnect the odometer, you can drive it as much as you want and it won’t record it.

When it comes time to sell pop it back in and you’re good to go.

Newer tools called mileage stoppers are available overseas that plugs in between your odometer cluster and vehicle to intercept the mileage.

You can drive normally but your odometer will not register the mileage.

False Documentation

Some scammers may provide false documentation to support the fraudulent mileage. This can include altering service records or even creating fake documents to show a lower mileage.

Scammers like to look for vehicles without a thorough history, like ones with significant lapses in recorded mileage events. This allows them to play with the numbers.

Signs Of Odometer Fraud

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Older Vehicles

There are some tell-tale signs that indicate a vehicle’s odometer reading might have been tampered with. These include:

Inconsistent Mileage Readings

If the mileage on a vehicle seems too low for its age or condition, this may be a sign of odometer fraud.

Common touch points on cars, like door handles, seats, steering wheels, volume knobs, HVAC controls, radio controls, and shifters will show more age with the mileage.

Look for these areas to see if it coincides with the vehicle’s mileage. If the car says 20,000 miles but the numbers on the radio a worn off, we have a problem.

Wear And Tear That Does Not Match The Mileage

If a car has a low mileage reading but shows signs of significant wear and tear, this could be a red flag.

Look at the typical wear items, like tires, brake pads, air filters, and oil filters to see if they have been replaced.

Higher mileage vehicles may have aftermarket replacement parts where as low mileage vehicles that are below service intervals should not. This can be an obvious sign of untrue mileage.

Tampered Odometer Gauge

If the odometer gauge looks like it has been tampered with or is not working properly, this may indicate that the mileage has been altered.

Lose trim, screws, and exposed wiring around the gauge cluster are possible signs of tampering.

Suspicious Paperwork

If the documentation for the vehicle shows discrepancies in the mileage or history, this could be a sign that something is not right.

Vehicles older than 20 years don’t need their mileage reported on titles, scammers like to target vehicles of this age as it’s much easier to commit fraud.

How to Avoid Odometer Fraud

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Inspect A Vehicle Thoroughly Before Buying

Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to protect yourself from odometer fraud when buying a used car.

Check The Car History

A car history report can provide valuable information about a vehicle’s mileage and history. Look for any discrepancies in the report

Get A Pre-Purchase Inspection

Before buying a used car, have it inspected by a reputable mechanic. They can check for signs of odometer tampering and provide an overall assessment of the vehicle’s condition.

Mechanics have tools that allow them to plug into the vehicle’s ECU and read the mileage directly from the engine’s computer.

If the odometer has been tampered with, a record of the true mileage may exist in the engine’s computer.

Look For Warning Signs

Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true or sellers who are evasive about the vehicle’s history. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to walk away if something doesn’t feel right.

If a car is priced well below its market value, this may be a sign of odometer fraud.

Research The Seller

If it’s a dealer look up the seller online and check for any negative reviews or complaints.

Be cautious of private sellers who are reluctant to provide information or documentation about the vehicle.

If the sellers have no history on the vehicle it’s generally best to avoid it.

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Lawyer Up On Scammers

If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of odometer fraud, there are steps you can take to seek legal recourse. Don’t be afraid to take action against scammers.

Penalties For Committing Odometer Fraud:

Odometer fraud is a federal crime that can result in fines and imprisonment. Not only that but, victims may be entitled to compensation for damages.

How To Report Odometer Fraud:

If you suspect that a vehicle’s mileage has been tampered with, you can report it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Steps To Take If You’ve Been A Victim Of Odometer Fraud:

If you’ve purchased a vehicle that has been tampered with, contact an attorney who specializes in auto fraud cases. They can advise you on your legal options and help you seek compensation for damages.

Wrapping Things Up

Protecting yourself from odometer fraud when buying a used car requires diligence and caution.

By being aware of the signs of odometer fraud and taking preventative measures, you can avoid falling victim to this common scam.

If you suspect that you or someone you know have been a victim of odometer fraud, seek legal advice and take action to protect your rights.

Stay Safe!

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