Three Tips to Avoid Modern Odometer Fraud

It takes less than a minute for a vehicle's odometer reading to be drastically changed.

"Odometer fraud is a scam that's been around for decades but it's entered the digital age," said Chriss Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax.

He said crooks no longer have to rollback an analog odometer to fraudulently reduce the miles on a car.

"Now, it's a simple matter of plugging the device into the car's computer and changing the mileage, making a vehicle look like it's worth more than it is." Basso explained.  

He said many of us aren't looking for it because we don't think odometer fraud exists anymore.

"It really makes criminals think they can get away with because it's cheap and nobody's looking," said Basso.

According to Carfax, odometer fraud in North Texas is up nearly 10 percent from last year, with 65,500 cases identified in the DFW area and 174,000 cars in the state.

It's a problem Steven Smith in Grand Prairie knows firsthand. He found a used SUV online and bought it from a local dealership.

"Good mileage, it didn't have dents all over it and the price was right," Smith said.

But the odometer was wrong.

He said he discovered the fraud when he did some research after handing over $2,500.

The current reading shows just over 128,000 miles but a vehicle history report shows more than 191,000 miles. 

"It's bogus! It's not representing the actual miles on it," he said. "I consider it a fraud, a fraud. Taking advantage of people."

Smith said it didn’t take long for this SUV to break down, costing him hundreds more dollars to repair.

Basso called this a classic tale.

"The average person loses about $4,000 buying one of these cars unknowingly with a rolled back odometer, and that’s the value of the car you're losing but also the cost of repair because the car has so many more miles," he explained.

So how do you avoid purchasing a car with a rolled back odometer?

First, check that the wear and tear on the inside and outside match the mileage reading on the odometer.

Next, get an auto history report from sites like Carfax, Autocheck or VINCheckPro.

Third, get the vehicle inspected by a mechanic.

Those were simple steps that Smith wished he would have taken before handing over thousands of dollars.

Car experts also told us that in some cases car sellers may not actually be aware that the odometer is rolled back.

But the Texas DMV said if a dealership is aware, they are legally required to disclose this info on the title application.

You can also check for odometer fraud online, for free.

For more information, click here: www.carfax.com/odo

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