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.
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
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.