Odometer fraud is on the rise: Why it's happening more than you think
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) —
Odometer fraud, an age-old scam, is alive and well in the digital age.
In fact, new research shows an alarming increase in the number of cars on the road with rolled back odometers.
Approximately 1.5 million drivers have been scammed by criminals who take advantage of technology and loopholes in the law to ramp up sales and profit by rolling back the mileage on used cars.
Nikkei Scott became a victim when she bought a used 2008 Nissan Altima.
"I feel betrayed," said Scott. "And every time I get in the car I just have anxiety."
When she first got the car, the paperwork from the dealership said it had 93,000 miles on it.
What Nikkei didn’t know, was that the car had a long, shady history.
According to the Carfax report, the car had a few red flags.
The first owner bought it brand new. But when the second owner bought it, the miles were so low, the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles issued a “Not Actual Mileage" label on the title. This was first red flag.
DMV records show the third owner had 89,000 miles on the car.
But the forth owner purchased it with a title that claimed it only had 67,000 miles on it.
That's 22 thousand less then the previous owner, a big red flag.
But Scott didn't learn any of this until it was too late.
“I hit my one-year mark with the car and I went to an auto dealership to go try to trade the car in and they gave me my Carfax and said you can't trade this car in,” said Scott. "I was like why? That’s when they said the miles have been rolled back."
Scott is not alone.
According to Carfax, there are about 60,000 cars in Florida with illegally rolled back odometers and the number is rising. Last year, Carfax recorded a 19 percent increase nationwide. In part, because it is easy to do it.
Chris Basso from Carfax showed us just how easy. He rolled back 100,000 miles on a truck to demonstrate to us that it only takes less than a minute.
Before the rollback demonstration, Basso said the truck was worth $3300,
But after the odometer rollback, the truck could be sold for $7700 in the West Palm Beach Area.
We easily found devices like the one Basso and his team used roll back the miles online for about just a few hundred dollars.
Lt. Alvaro Feola with the Florida Highway Patrol oversees odometer fraud.
He explained buying an odometer adjuster is perfectly legal, but using it to commit fraud is a felony.
In fact, you can be charged with multiple felonies for doing so.
"A person touches the odometer and that also creates title fraud,” said Feola.
Which is why Scott is filing a lawsuit. She hired a lawyer to sue the dealership who sold her the car.
"You can sue anybody that was involved in the tampering process and that includes title clerks at auto dealerships,” said Robert Murphy, Scott’s attorney. “Anyone that knew or aided and abetted with tampering."
Murphy said it is easier to get away with rolling back Scott’s 2008 Nissan Altima because when a car is 10 years old, dealers in Florida are exempt from disclosing the mileage. So you have to look over your paperwork carefully.
"It’s very wrong,” said Scott. “I spent my hard earned money on this car and its basically like I am getting ripped off."
The best way to protect yourself from being a victim of odometer fraud is to get a Carfax report before you buy a vehicle, and check out the car's history.
If you learn that you miles had been rolled back on your car, act quickly. Murphy said you have two years to sue once it’s discovered.