One of the most common used carscams disreputable individuals perpetrate is odometer fraud. Rollback schemes are quite common, even with the new digital odometers, which ironically were designed to prevent fraud.
The Federal Truth in Mileage Act (TIMA) requires sellers to provide actual, truthful odometer readings and to disclose any known inaccuracies. TIMA makes odometer fraud a felony. Failure to disclose a changed or repaired odometer (meaning altered in any way), and/or falsifying mileage documentation will result in fines and/or imprisonment.
In one recent case, an unscrupulous dealer was sentenced to 100 months in prison plus three years of supervised release for his role in a conspiracy to alter odometers on used motor vehicles, provide false odometer statements, and commit wire and securities fraud. He was also ordered to pay restitution of more than four million dollars to the victims of his fraud. In addition to consumers, this individual scammed other automobile dealers and insurance companies.
"This type of financial fraud harms consumers making one of the biggest investments they will make: their automobile. Dishonest dealers who roll back odometers cheat customers out of their hard-earned money, impede informed buying choices, and raise safety concerns by misrepresenting the actual condition of the vehicles they sell," says Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Division. "The Justice Department will seek appropriately tough sentences for those engaging in these illegal practices."
So, with all that said, how do you avoid getting taken?
While any vehicle can be a subject of odometer tampering, it's hot-selling vehicles that are most often targeted. Additionally, this type of fraud occurs most frequently with fairly new vehicles that have accumulated high mileage in a short time.
Other indications of tampering include loose or missing dash screws, scratches around the speedometer or the odometer, and non-original parts on low mileage cars. As always, you should have an independent professional mechanic of your choosing inspect the vehicle. As part of that inspection, make sure they look for signs of tampering.