Gephardt: Thousands of Utah Cars Hit By Odometer Fraud

Aug 24, 2020, 7:48 PM | Updated: 8:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Odometer fraud is one of the most widespread schemes out there, and one of the hardest to catch.

Thousands of Utahns are driving cars with hacked odometers, and not just the old, analog type. Crooks are tampering with digital odometers too, costing car buyers thousands of dollars while putting their safety in jeopardy.

How can you steer clear of it?

Thieves can alter digital odometers, along with older analog odometers.

When you fire up your ride and look at the number on the dash, you might as well be looking at a scorecard. The higher the number, the less your car is worth. That is why some unscrupulous sellers roll back the miles on odometers.

It’s fraudulent, it’s illegal. and it probably happens more than you think. 

This month, prosecutors charged a Lehi man for tampering with an odometer. He got caught after a potential buyer “checked the Carfax history and discovered a mileage discrepancy of over 90,000 miles,” according to charging documents. 

“We’re still seeing conmen roll back odometers,” said Emilie Voss of Carfax. She told the KSL Investigators the fraud continues to run rampant even as most manufacturers have abandoned those rolling odometers.

“I think there’s a big misconception with the digital odometers that they can’t be tampered with and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Voss said. Black market computerized devices allow criminals to change the numbers on a digital odometer in just seconds. 

According to research from Carfax, 1.8 million vehicles nationwide have had their odometers rolled back. In Utah, that number is nearly 14,000 – about 2,000 in Salt Lake City alone. 

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings, costing American car buyers more than $1 billion annually. 

It’s not just an expensive problem. 

“It’s a safety risk as well,” said Voss. “Maybe there is maintenance to do on the vehicle that you weren’t anticipating because you thought it’d be years down the road because of where you think the mileage is at.” 

If you’re in the market for a used car, you should take it to an independent mechanic and have them look for wear and tear that doesn’t match with the odometer reading. 

You should also check the car’s maintenance records and vehicle history reports. Carfax and its competitors in the vehicle history report businesses get their data from odometer readings taken by car dealers and mechanics. If a car goes in for an oil change at 150,000 miles but then goes on the market with fewer miles – it’s a dead giveaway that the odometer has been rolled back. 

If you believe your car’s odometer has been tampered with, contact the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division.

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Gephardt: Thousands of Utah Cars Hit By Odometer Fraud