Avoiding Used Car Odometer Rollback Fraud

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While we wish it were not the case, the reality remains that odometer rollback fraud is a significant issue for some used car buyers today. Mostly present in cases of private sales, odometer rollback fraud involves disconnecting, resetting or otherwise altering the number of miles indicated by an odometer, and takes place on thousands of vehicles every year.

At Adonis Auto Group, we’re here to not only provide a huge selection of quality used cars in various parts of Texas, but also to ensure our clients completely avoid any and all risks of odometer rollback fraud — which you’ll never, ever deal with for any of our vehicles. How does odometer rollback fraud work, how can you tell if it’s been attempted, and how can you completely steer clear of situations where such fraud might be attempted? Here’s a primer.

avoiding odometer rollback fraud

How Odometer Rollback Fraud Takes Place

Odometer rollback fraud can be done in a few ways, but all with a similar goal of taking a higher-mileage vehicle and making it look like a lower-mileage vehicle by way of changing the odometer reading. For one, if someone removes an odometer from a used car and replaces it with one that displays just a few less miles than is accurate, this can be done as many times as necessary to bring that number down towards zero.

In most cases, scammers taking part in this sort of scheme won’t stop at the odometer. They’ll also tamper with the speedometer cable to make it not function properly, since this will “prove” a car’s mileage has gone up simply because the speedometer doesn’t work.

Other times, scammers might tamper with a vehicle’s odometer by disconnecting it entirely or cutting any plugs that are attached to it — and then physically rolling that odometer back to a lower number.

In addition, you may notice other signs as well. Con artists will typically clean the interior of these vehicles extensively, and either remove or even replace speedometer and engine components.

Spotting a Used Car Odometer Rollback Fraud Attempt

Now that you know a little about how odometer rollback fraud takes place, what does it look like when it’s been attempted? Here are some steps for determining if you should be concerned with this issue when you’re thinking of purchasing a used vehicle.

First up, utilize past vehicle records if they’re present. Compare the number of miles recorded on the past odometer readings (which should be listed in service records) and current odometer readings if present. If a vehicle has 70,000 miles on its odometer and also has 30,000 original miles — or even 100,000 original miles that’s been reset to just 80,000 — this is a major red flag even without taking into consideration additional signs of fraud.

You’ll also want to be on the lookout for any tampering with a vehicle’s speedometer or odometer cables; this is a good way to spot an attempt at odometer rollback fraud.

There are also specific vehicle on-board diagnostic (OBD) tools used to compare the dashboard odometer with a manufacturer-specific odometer code. You may have to bring the vehicle into a professional for this sort of diagnostic, but it’s definitely a worthwhile step to undertake.

Finally, there are state vehicle inspection stations that can record the odometer reading every time the vehicle is inspected. You should check records to see if the vehicle you’re considering has had any such inspection, then compare those numbers to the current odometer reading on the vehicle.

While odometer rollback fraud is certainly something you want to avoid when purchasing used vehicles, you should also be on the lookout for other signs of potential scammers. For example, cars that have clearly had their exterior washed within an inch of their life may have been given this extensive cleaning to hide prior damage. Another sign of a scammer is someone being too eager to sell a used car, as this could be their motivation for trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Value of a Professional Used Car Dealer

Used car odometer rollback fraud is also one of the issues that highlights the value of working with a reputable used car dealership for your needs — and steering clear of private used car sales. Odometer fraud is exponentially more common when you’re dealing with private individuals, and even more so if they have limited knowledge of the used car market. Some scammers have made quite a living off this particular scheme, so you should be cautious if someone insists on selling their vehicle to you without either a test drive or even completing the transaction in your presence.

A professional dealership will also be able to check a vehicle’s VIN number using a vast network of resources to ensure there are no outstanding issues surrounding that specific car. They’ll also be able to perform such diagnostic tests as checking the speedometer cable to ensure it’s properly attached and functioning, as well as checking the odometer with a manufacturer-specific code if need be.

For more on odometer rollback fraud and how to be sure you avoid it at all costs, or to learn about how a reputable car dealer will help you avoid these kinds of scams and many others, speak to the sales staff at Adonis Auto Group today.

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