What is Odometer Fraud?

That grueling experience of shopping for a vehicle has finally come to an end.  After visiting your fifth used car lot, you stumble across the perfect vehicle.  It's a late model car that is  simply beautiful - fresh paint, finely detailed and just right for you.  More importantly, it has low mileage, making it an absolute steal for the suggested price.  In truth, what began as dream vehicle just may turn out to be your worst nightmare.  The money you worked so hard to save could have been used to fund odometer fraud

Accordingly to federal legislation and many state laws, it is a felony offense to knowingly tamper with, adjust, set back, fail to connect, or disconnect the odometer of an automobile to reflect a mileage lower than the amount the vehicle has actually been driven.  Furthermore, it is also illegal to supply any written odometer documentation knowing such a statement is false or based on figures reflecting that an odometer has been altered or tampered with.  When this law is violated, the felonies of odometer fraud and grand theft are added to the perpetrators list of arrest charges.  These charges carry fines up to $5,000, five years in prison or both in some instances.

Consumer loss can be predicted by evaluating the actual expense a consumer pays as the result of odometer fraud.  For instance, the typical mileage rollback in this scam is anywhere from 40,000 to 45,000 miles.  The impact this has on the wholesale price of a vehicle usually exceeds the $4,000 mark.  The negative loss on the wholesale value of a used car with a 40,000 mile rollback is typically anywhere from $3,500 to $4,000, depending on the date of the rollback and model of the car involved in the scam. 

Increased maintenance fees may also incur as some individuals own vehicles that are basically worthless as the result of a rollback.  Additionally, those who purchase high mileage vehicles often spend a considerable amount of time dealing with unexpected maintenance fees and trying to rectify the situation.  In many instances, a victim may lose time from work and other important events if the vehicle in question is their basic means of transportation.

Protecting Yourself

Before purchasing a used vehicle, it is imperative to look for signs of wear and tear and on the brake and gas pedals as they may indicate how much a vehicle has actually been driven.  You can also search for any loose screws near the dashboard, damage to the seats or new interior installations.  If you detect a clicking noise coming from the odometer, it's a good chance that the mileage has been rolled back.  Cars with low mileage usually will not have any of these problems.  For instance, a car with less than 20,000 miles is likely to have it's original tires, brake pads and rotors.   

If you suspect fraudulent activity, ask the dealer for the vehicle's maintenance records and the original owner's manual.  While the car may seem perfect, taking these precautions is necessary to save you from the loss of valuable time and money.

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