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Used car buyers are losing thousands to odometer fraud

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Posted at 6:15 AM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 14:42:35-05

BALTIMORE — If you thought odometer fraud disappeared with digital odometers, think again. Car buyers are losing thousands to this scheme, and it’s becoming more common.

“There are 265,000 miles showing on the odometer and with the push of a button, after I input the value in there, it’ll go down to 85,000 miles,” said Josh Ingle, owner of Atlanta Speedometer.

Ingle said the tool that changes mileage has a legitimate purpose. He uses it to input the correct mileage on cars requiring instrument cluster repair, but he also knows scammers are using it to make a profit.

In a few seconds, Ingle demonstrated how easy it was for him to inflate the value of a 2007 Chevy Silverado by $9,000 after doctoring the mileage.

“This doesn’t really leave any type of digital footprint. If I were to go back in here and take the chip off the circuit board and really break the circuit board and instrument cluster down, there would be no way for even me to verify it,” Ingle said.

Since the tool is used by professionals, it can be easily purchased online, which is why Ingle is warning car buyers to be on the lookout for odometer fraud and to start with a CARFAX report.

“It’s a huge misconception that odometer rollback is a thing of the past and it doesn’t happen with these newer digital odometers. And it’s important that we’re all aware that it definitely does,” said Emilie Voss, a CARFAX spokesperson.

According to CARFAX statistics, there was a 13 percent annual increase in odometer fraud in Maryland, and a 9 percent increase in the Baltimore market, or 8,800 rollbacks.

CARFAX reports reveal inconsistencies in mileage, but buyers are encouraged to take additional steps.

“Take it for that independent inspection, take it for a test drive, and ask questions of the seller,” said Voss.

Mechanics will be able to spot unusual wear and tear that could cost owners money over time.

“We know that there will be an unexpected maintenance and wear and tear you weren’t expecting on a vehicle with 85,000 miles that you think had 85,000 miles has a totally different maintenance schedule than a vehicle with 265,000 miles on it,” said Voss.

For 2015 models and newer, manufacturers will store mileage in different locations, but Ingle said that isn’t deterring fraudsters.

"It really doesn’t matter. There are ways around a lot of stuff, the European models are a little bit tougher, but still doable. With the right technology and the right equipment, you can pretty much do just about any vehicle on the market," said Ingle.

CARFAX has a free tools where consumers can check for odometer fraud. Click here to learn more.