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Odometer fraud on the rise in the hot car market

Jan 10, 2023, 11:04 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — Remember that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when they jacked the car up and ran it in reverse to try and shave off miles? Odometer tampering can do a lot more than fool Dad into thinking you didn’t swipe his beloved ride. It can cost buyers big bucks.But with odometers mostly digital these days, is it still a problem?

Josh Ingle of Atlanta Speedometer says, “Yes.”

“Digital displays are just as easy to manipulate as a hacker would be on the internet,” he said.

To prove it, Ingle agreed to set up a demonstration. As KSL-TV watched, Ingle made the display on a car with about 150,000 miles shave down to about 50,000.

All a con man needs, Ingle says, is a cheap, $300 odometer correcting tool like the one he uses in his shop for non-nefarious purposes.

“We didn’t have to do anything other than plug in and tell it what we wanted it to have. And it’s that simple,” Ingle says.

CARFAX has tracked odometer fraud since the 80s. Their data, shared with KSL-TV, show an estimated 16,000 vehicles in Utah have a rolled back odometer. That’s up 4% from last year.           “It’s heading in the wrong direction,” says CARFAX’s Emilie Voss.

The used car market is largely to blame for the increases, Voss suspects, with more folks desperate to buy cars and maybe not taking time to research what they’re buying.

Odometer fraud can be a financial windfall for sellers.“If you’re buying a vehicle and you don’t know that the mileage has been changed, you’re likely overpaying by about $4,000,” Voss says.

Ingle says most victims won’t know they’ve been ripped off until either the car starts having issues common with higher mileage, or when a vehicle history report gets pulled and the numbers don’t match.

Buyers can protect themselves by having used cars inspected by a mechanic before purchase.

A vehicle history report, like those sold by CARFAX, tracks the mileage of cars when they receive service and can also be a good tool to spot discrepancies.

In Utah, victims of odometer fraud can report the crime to the state’s motor vehicle enforcement division.

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Odometer fraud on the rise in the hot car market