• CAR BUYER WARNING: Odometer fraud is getting easier

    By: Jason Stoogenke


    The criminal practice of rolling back odometers to try and get buyers to pay more for a car or truck isn’t new, but it is getting easier.

    In the old days, fraudsters had to manually roll back the odometer. But now, odometers are digital. Some may think that makes it harder for criminals to mess with, but it’s actually the opposite.

    Carfax tracks odometer fraud and said there are 200,000 cases in the U.S. every year.

    "It can be easier to roll back a digital odometer because, now, it just involves computer equipment and handheld devices that can be done literally in seconds, taking off 50, 100,000 miles," Chris Basso, with Carfax, said.

    Anyone can get one of those devices online for about $200.  They're perfectly legal to buy because there are legitimate reasons for people to recalibrate odometers.  For example, if a vehicle is in an accident and the body shop replaces the odometer.

    "Even your smartphone can be used if you get some of those apps,” North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles and Theft Bureau director Steven Watkins said.

    Watkins’ agents investigate odometer fraud. 

    "Here in Charlotte, it's a pretty regular occurrence," Watkins said.

    Criminals who mess with the mileage usually mess with the title to make sure it matches in order to cover their tracks, which means buyers often fall victim to title fraud, too.

    So how do you know if the mileage is right?

    • Check Carfax or Auto Check.  They list mileages throughout the vehicle's history.
    • Look at the wear on the tires, brakes and inside the vehicle.
    • Compare the mileage with similar vehicles from the same year.
    • Have a mechanic you trust check it out.
    • Ask for any maintenance receipts.  Those should have the mileage on particular dates.

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