Erasing the extra miles: What you need to know about odometer fraud

Florida's top prosecutor warns of common scam that's hard to spot

By Lauren Verno - Consumer investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida’s top prosecutor is warning car buyers of odometer fraud. 

Tampering with odometers is one of the most widespread forms of consumer fraud but one of the most difficult to detect. 

And it’s not just the old school mechanical ones but digital odometers as well. 

“Over 450,000 vehicles were sold in this country that had odometers that were rolled back, and that means consumers purchased cars far more for what they were valued,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.  

Odometer fraud happens when a scammer disconnects, resets or alters a vehicle's odometer to lower the mileage displayed. 

The most common way hackers do this is by manually rolling back the odometer’s wheels. 

Digital odometer fraud has become just as common. Changing the display of a digital odometer is similar to computer hacking. 

Here’s what you need to look for before you buy:

  • Look for oil-change stickers, service records or warranty cards that may reflect the mileage of the vehicle
  •  Use vehicle history report sites, such as AutoCheck, Carfax or Kelley Blue Book to make sure the car is in good condition
  •  Ask to see the title or odometer statement received by the person selling the vehicle to find out the mileage at the time of purchase by the seller
  •  Examine the wear and tear on the vehicle. Look at pedals, tire wear, body paint, and other items to be sure the odometer reading is consistent with the state of the vehicle. 

A good lesson to live by: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, experts say.

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