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Odometer Fraud – Rollback, Reset Or Clocking of the Mileometer

As the price of new vehicles increases, there is more and more interest in used cars and subsequently odometer tampering has become a very lucrative criminal activity. Odometer is an instrument that indicates distance traveled by a vehicle, but criminals are using various instruments to roll back the mileometer to sell the vehicle at a higher price. Targeted vehicles are mostly new looking and leased cars with high mileage, but still like new appearance.

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT YOU GET

Odometer rollback schemes represent a high profitable fraud. In addition to an old machine with false mileage you also get a car which will most likely need more maintenance and repair, thus almost guaranteeing you a return to the car repair shop. And the result of course is, more money to be paid by you. Only a low percentage of odometer tampering is executed by amateurs, usually this crime is associated with intelligent organizations or individuals who develop complicated schemes very difficult to detect and investigate. Not only the end consumers are affected by this fraud, but also legitimate re-sellers.

VARIETIES OF ODOMETER FRAUD

False or Altered Titles – A clear title is much more valuable than a wrecked or damaged car title. This scheme occurs when a dealer purchases a high mileage vehicle and subsequently resells it with falsified, reduced odometer reading. This is accomplished merely by tampering the high-mileage figure noted or by obtaining a new automobile title with a false mileage figure before reselling the vehicle. A professional calligrapher or an artist can perform excellent quality title alterations, which are often invisible to the naked eye.

Reassigned Titles – In most countries law allows licensed automobile dealers to transfer vehicle titles without re-registering them. How? An automobile dealer’s reassignment of the title may be attached to the original title. Numerous title reassignments may accompany an original title, as well as the washed title. An dealer may also discard, rather than alter, prior reassignments of title, making it difficult to trace ownership of the vehicle.

Title Laundering – This scheme occurs when a wrecked cars title is replaced by papers bought in another country. A dealer discards the previous title, registers his vehicle in another state with the altered odometer and then in a name of a company, then reassigns the title back to himself, now having his car registered with the new mileage.

Odometer Clockers
– A dealer does minor labor to the car, replacing or changing the noticeable dings and dongs. Replaced can be floor mats, gas and brake pedals, also tires. The finish is then waxed and washed. A clocker turns back the odometer with common tools such as picks, wires, screw drivers, electronic and digital tools. Cars odometers can be rolled back in masses, because a good clocker can do this job in a matter of minutes. The vehicle will then be sold over the internet, at the dealers lot or at the auction houses to get a higher value.

DIGITAL ODOMETERS

Car manufacturers use digital mileage meters because they are cheaper to produce than a mechanical dashboard and easier to fit into the car as there is no mechanical speedometer cable. Another reason why car manufacturers developed the digital odometer, was to alleviate the problem of odometer tampering. Electrical pulses in the cars wiring can cause the dashboard data, which is stored internally on an EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory), to become corrupted due to a car accident or a simple mistake in electronics. Therefor of course also a tool exists to “correct” the mileage numbers who were displayed incorrectly. Unfortunately just as quickly as the technology is developed, scam artists learn how to use it for the wrong reasons. It is similar to computer hacking, with the right software and hardware you can penetrate right into the system making changes as desired. You can purchase these tools anywhere in a car shop or online. Since digital odometers have no visible moving parts they are even harder to detect than traditional mechanical odometers, so the vehicle’s condition and a detailed history report are the best clues a buyer has for determining whether clocking has occurred. Legally this service is displayed as “mileage correction”.

HOW TO DETECT ODOMETER FRAUD?

  • Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle, especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals, to be sure it seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer
  • Take a trusted mechanic with you to examine the car
  • Ask dealers who sold the vehicle previously for copies of the vehicle’s odometer disclosure forms
  • Ask to see the title and compare the mileage on it with the vehicle’s odometer. Be sure to examine the title closely if the mileage notation seems altered or is somehow not easy to read
  • Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records. Also, search for oil-change and maintenance stickers on windows, door frames, glove box or under the hood
  • Check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are aligned correctly. If they’re crooked, contain gaps or jiggle when you bang on the dash with your hand, walk away
  • Examine the tires. If the odometer on your car shows 20,000 miles or less, it should definitely have the original tires. If they are not, they should have been replaced by better ones, if you see tires that are worse than the originals then something must have gone wrong

SUMMARY

Detection of odometer fraud by law enforcement agencies can be difficult and time consuming. For the criminal however, odometer tampering represents a relatively low-risk method of achieving substantial personal wealth. Years may pass before consumers realize that they have been the victim of odometer rollback fraud, if they ever do. In rare instances where dealers get caught by you, they enthusiastically negotiate a financial settlement with the customer in order to avoid negative publicity and potential problems with the law. Odometer rollback and title laundering schemes can range from crude to brilliant. They are merely by the criminal’s imagination. Neither geographical barriers nor titling requirements pose as obstacles to individuals who are committed to carrying out their schemes.

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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Raja Says:

    well i was sold a car in london with a reversed meter, its a 2005 VW golf, it was adavtised on the auto trader website, and it was made to look like a private deal,
    the guy came out of a appartment block in london, car was parked outside on a single yellow line, he said he lives in the flats and let us test drive the car, car was showing 37,000 miles,
    he accepted only cash, and told us that he do part time dealing of cars, as his father get cheap company cars and he sells them on for profit, he gave me a new MOT which has correct millege on it with a full service history book with VW stamped services
    when i checked the internet MOT record of the car after i bought it, it showed that few months back it was MOTed with 146,000 miles on it ,the guys never answered his mobile back, he never lived in that block of flats,
    but i felt most angery and annoyed when metopolitian police and trading standards both refused to investigate, although they could have traced them via DVLA records, police said its a civil matter, and trading agency said as it was a private deal they cant do anything about it, made me think that both these agencies are complete waste of public money, police can only chase people with no seat belts on and trading agency is so stupid that they dont realise how easy it was for scammers to do it as a private deal,
    now i dont know how to report it and where to go for help, i am realistic and know that i will not get my money back but atleasat this organised crime should stop otherwise many more people will lose money
    thanks

  2. Damian Says:

    Hello mate,

    The same thing happened to me although the guy was actually a dealer masquerading as a private dealer. He showed me 5 or 6 cars he was selling so at least I have something to fall back on here.

    Whereabouts in London did this happen? I bought mine near Wood Green. I have since contacted the police and Trading standards who are investigating.

  3. Seth williamson Says:

    I had bought a car from a dealer knowing it had a rebuilt title. With a title I was suspicious but I was told it was minor damage. When I get the car the odometer showed 38000 miles on it. I was told by the dealer that the car was used to take the prev owners kids to school so it would be about right with the mileage on it. I went to sell my 01 civic with 47000 miles and when I go to pay off the title with the buyer turns out the true milage on the car showed last report to be 168000 miles. The cars left side was crushed and was rebuilt to major extent. The odometer was replaced and did bot show true milage. I believe it is law to have a written statement showing previous damage to the vehicle. That was not recieved and I’m thinking about taking it further into law. The sad part…….. The dealer was family. Now my cars actual value has decreased majorly and is worth nothing. Word of advise never deal with family. It makes it almost impossible to turn around a bad deal.

  4. Seth williamson Says:

    Also when the engine blew two weeks after I recieved the car he mad me pay for a néw engine which brings the value I paid to around 4k and the value of the car when I first bought it was only around 900. On a good day

  5. Mashraki Says:

    I have been cheated in a similar fashion. The dealer in Mumbai’s posh andheri east suburbs deals out of his plush mansion. Scores of well done up used cars are kept outside his mansion for gullible, over enthusiastic vehicle buyers who easily fall prey to the charms and polished nature of the vehicle dealers. More so the dealer legitimises his business by publishing his wares in a reputed english newspaper which comes out with a weekly car , two wheeler supplement.

    I was sold a 2005 year manufactured accent viva 1.6ABS with 28000 kms on the odometer. I purchased the car in August 2008. In August 2010 I decided to sell the car. The alert buyer found out from the past owner the cars service records. The car was found to be serviced in 2006 and 2007 with much higher readings at 46000Kms and 76000 kms respectively.

    When I had insisted for the previous service records the dealer had evaded by telling me that he did not have the records. I was over enthusiastic at that time as it was a high end car for me and very well maintained which actually hid its true mileage. I did not realise that I was being cooly cheated. the dealer has made his millions probably in this way by cheating gullible buyers.

    I am investigating the matter, has informed the dealer and would soon plan legal action if necessary. Atleast I would be at peace and can stop this cheating business

  6. Japan Auto Exports Co., Ltd Says:

    Odometer tampering is a criminal activity but many car exporters in Japan, unfortunately, would rollback the odometer for the sake of making more profits. New Zealand is one of the biggest victim of such fraud. Many rolled back odometer cars have been exported to other parts of the world too like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South African, Caribbean countries etc. Jevic in Japan issues a certificate of Odometer Authentification upon detailed examination of vehicle at a low fee. Many countries have made it mandatory to get Jevic Odometer clearance before a car is allowed to import. Japan Auto Exports Co., Ltd considers Odometer tampering a highly immoral activity and ensures its clients to supply best quality cars with clean titles and genuine mileage. If you need more information or want to import a truely authentic mileage vehicle from Japan, feel free to email us at buycars@japanautoexports.com or visit our website at http://www.japanautoexports.com You can also call us at +81 909910 2555
    Thank you

  7. Alex Says:

    A few people have served prison sentences and were ordered to pay back profits to the customers so sorta like a refund for the mark up he made for the incorect milage.

    There was a guy who was ordered to pay £400,000 a few months ago plus an aditional 65,000 for grief he caused to his customers. Small private sellers cant really be reported as half of them are sold incorect milage cars by these millionare fraudsters !

    Its really stupid how gullible people are nowadays no offence to anybody but some people are kinda stupid and get charmed easily by these sellers its been made very easy to tell if a cars been clocked back or not dont be lazy and do 5 minutes of research and you wont get scammed !

  8. Bill Says:

    Funniest attempted scam was years ago when a small town new car dealers used car salesman was showing me a car that was just traded in buy a “little old lady school teacher who rarely drove it which accounted for the low mileage on the odometer.” When I took it for a test drive I noticed a “last service sticker” on the door which showed many thousand miles more then the odometer showed. When I returned the car to the dealer I asked “are you sure that odometer reading is correct?” Oh yes, we would never turn back an odometer.

    I opened the door and pointed to the sticker. His embarrassment was a joy to see. His quick thinking but laughable reply was: “Gee, I never suspected that nice little old lady would scam us like that when she traded this in.”

    Obviously I never visited that dealer again.

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