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Understanding Odometer Fraud

Odometer fraud is a federal offense. When someone takes steps to roll back the odometer on a used vehicle, with the intention of making it look as though there are fewer miles on it than there really are, he's trying to deceive potential buyers of that car or truck. So he's defrauding whoever buys the vehicle. This is a crime that's taken very seriously by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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According to a fraud study from 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that there are around 450,000 vehicles with false readings on the odometer sold every year. These vehicles cost over $1 billion extra each year to those who purchase them.

Do not be a victim of odometer fraud!

Used Car Dealers

Anyone trying to sell a used car wants it to look as good as possible, with the hope that you'll pay more for it, perhaps a lot more.

A dealer does some minor cosmetic changes to the car he's going to sell, such as fixing scratches and knocking out small dents. He may replace the floor mats, brake and gas pedals, and even the tires. He then details the vehicle, washing and waxing the outside, and cleaning the interior until it looks almost new.

All used card dealers do the above. However, the unscrupulous also commits odometer fraud to raise the vehicle's perceived value.

What Is Odometer Fraud?

Also known as clocking and busting miles (and mistakenly called speedometer fraud by some), it's simply the practice of making it look like a vehicle has been driven for fewer miles than it actually has, and then selling that vehicle for a higher price.

If you think the mileage on a car or truck is unusually low, there is a way to tell if the odometer has been tampered with. Go to the Motor Vehicle Department in your state. They usually keep sales records that contain a report of the mileage every time a car is sold. If you review these records, you will notice any discrepancy in the mileage.

Another excellent way to determine if you may be the victim of used vehicle odometer fraud is to CARFAX or other online vehicle-checking services. You can get a vehicle history report about any vehicle you like.

How It's Done

There are three ways someone can commit odometer rollback fraud...

  • Manually rolling back the odometer.

  • Disconnecting the odometer so that it does not advance while being driven, and then reconnecting it when it's time to sell the vehicle.

  • Replacing the odometer with one that reads fewers miles, and never noting it in any official reports about the vehicle, even though it's a legal requirement.

How Do I Protect Myself Against Odometer Fraud?

The best protection is to never buy a used vehicle unless it comes with a CARFAX or other report. Only buy from a dealer that offers a third-party report based on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

But don't rely solely on that report...

  • Inspect the vehicle yourself, including the dashboard and under the dashboard. If anything looks suspicious, walk away. Look at the brake pedal, tires, and rotors. If the dealer claims that the vehicle has fewer than 20,000 miles, it should have original tires, rotors, and brake pads. The brake pedal itself certainly would not be worn either.

  • During your test drive, listen for clicking noises coming from the odometer. Clicking noises from the odometer are a great sign that it has been tampered with.

  • If you really like the car, hire a mechanic to inspect it for you. Ask specifically to have the odometer checked.

  • Review the vehicle's odometer history found on the certificate of registration or the title.

Are You an Odometer Fraud Victim?

If you feel that you may have been victimized by someone committing an odometer rollback fraud, contact the U.S. Department of Transportation and an attorney. You have legal rights and don't have to suffer with a vehicle that was not what you thought you were purchasing.

Be ready to show your attorney all paperwork, including all loan papers, repair bills and insurance papers. If you wrote to the NHTSA, then you should include their response to you with the documents you give to your lawyer.

What's Being Done About Odometer Fraud

The Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation see this practice as a serious crime as well as an important consumer fraud issue. The NHTSA and the states have joined together to augment and enforce state laws.

NOTE:The information here is not legal advice and is only presented to you so you can know your options if you purchased a lemon. As with any legal issue, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney.


 

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