If an unscrupulous seller rolls back the odometer, you could end up driving a car that is considerably less valuable and less safe than you thought. Some sellers even roll back the odometers on recent models, so buyers think they’re getting a brand new vehicle–you can imagine the extra cost consumers pay for that fraud. The most dangerous odometer rollbacks occur on vehicles that have been in serious crashes and should no longer be on the road at all.
The Office of Odometer Fraud Investigations has been working hard to track down crime rings that repeatedly buy high-mileage vehicles, tamper with their odometers, and resell them as lower-mileage cars to unwitting drivers. Fortunately, the office has tools to help investigators see patterns and trends and to sort through piles of records.
Just last week, for example, came news of federal charges against four members of an organized crime ring involving at least 75 vehicles. NHTSA agents worked on the joint investigation with the Seattle Police Department, the IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s office to track down the men accused of buying cars from private parties, rolling back odometer mileage readings, and then selling those cars for a profit.
One way NHTSA’s Odometer Fraud unit can protect consumers is by arming you with information before you make a purchase. They can help you determine the vehicle fraud laws in your state. And they offer helpful tips so buyers can identify the signs of odometer tampering.
This is particularly important with newer models because, with digital odometers, you can’t tell if the mileage has been rolled back just by making sure the numbers are aligned correctly. But even with digital odometers, there are several things consumers can be on the lookout for when purchasing a vehicle:
• Compare the odometer mileage with maintenance and inspection records,
• Look at wear and tear on the vehicle and make sure it seems consistent with the stated mileage,
• Run a Vehicle History Report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history.
I’m proud of all the hard work our odometer fraud investigators put into the job of keeping America’s drivers safe, but remember, when buying a vehicle, your own observations may be the best safety feature on the market.