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Looking for a Used Car? Tips for Recognizing Odometer Rollback Fraud

Looking for a Used Car? Tips for Recognizing Odometer Rollback Fraud - The Beacon


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By: Jackie

Looking for a Used Car? Tips for Recognizing Odometer Rollback Fraud

With the volume of sales of used cars increasing in the summer months, you may be in the market for a late-model low-mileage used car. Your BBB® brings you some helpful information on how to make sure that low mileage odometer reading is accurate and the odometer hasn’t been tampered with.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), odometer fraud is “the disconnection, resetting or alteration of a motor vehicle’s odometer with the intent to change the number of miles indicated.” Committing odometer fraud is a federal crime, a felony. By law, car sellers are required to give a written disclosure of the mileage registered on an odometer to the purchaser. If the odometer mileage is incorrect, the law requires a statement to that effect to be furnished on the title to the buyer. It will say something like “not the actual mileage.” However, consumers don’t always read every single document when buying a car and that phrase is sometimes overlooked.

Back in the early 2000s, one in 10 American cars had a rolled back odometer, according to Jack Gillis of the Consumer Federation of America as reported on Furthermore, estimates from NHTSA are that American car buyers lose $4 – 10 billion annually to odometer fraud according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

When digital odometers were introduced, officials hoped that it would cut down on odometer fraud. However, “just like a hacker can do damage to a computer, someone with the right software and hardware can make a digital odometer read whatever number they want,” according to pat Goss, co-host of PBS’s Motorweek as reported on And digital odometers that have been tampered with are harder to detect according to NHTSA.

So how can consumers avoid being the victim of odometer rollback fraud? Here are some tips from the NHTSA, Carfax, and BBB:

*Buy from a reputable dealer. Check the dealer’s Business Review at

*Compare the mileage on the vehicle’s title with the odometer, and be wary if the figures on the title appear blurred, smudged, or hard to read.

*Compare odometer mileage against that on maintenance and inspection records.

*If the car has a mechanical odometer, make sure the numbers are aligned correctly. Pay special attention to the 10,000 digit. Gauges that are crooked, have gaps, or jiggle when you hit the dash are signs of odometer rollback.

*When test driving the vehicle, notice if the speedometer sticks.

*Check the condition of the tires. If the car has less than 20,000 miles, it should have the original tires.

*Look carefully at the car’s overall level of wear and tear, especially the pedals, to see if the condition is consistent with the mileage.

*Dash screws, scratches in the odometer area, fingerprints on the inside of the instrument panel’s clear cover, and parts that are replaced that normally wouldn’t have to be replaced, can be a sign of odometer rollback.

*Have a reputable mechanic inspect the car and look for signs of tampering.

If you have been the victim of odometer rollback fraud in Indiana, contact the Indiana Attorney General’s office at 800.382.5516, in Illinois contact the Secretary of State Police at 217.782.7126, in Kentucky, contact Kentucky Attorney General’s office at 502.696.5389.

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.