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Used car buyers are losing thousands to odometer fraud

Posted at 2:23 PM, Jan 05, 2021

BALTIMORE — Those who thought odometer fraud disappeared with digital odometers should think again. Car buyers are losing thousands to the scheme, and it’s becoming more common.

Josh Ingle, the owner of Atlanta Speedometer, says it's possible to change the reading on a digital odometer from 265,000 miles down to 85,000 miles with the touch of a button. He said the tool has a legitimate purpose — to input correct mileage on cars requiring instrument cluster repair. But he also knows scammers are using it to make a profit.

In a few seconds, Ingle demonstrated how easy it was for him to inflate the value of a 2007 Chevy Silverado by $9,000 after doctoring the mileage.

“This doesn’t really leave any type of digital footprint. If I were to go back in here and take the chip off the circuit board and really break the circuit board and instrument cluster down, there would be no way for even me to verify it,” Ingle said.

Since the tool is used by professionals, it can be easily purchased online, which is why Ingle is warning car buyers to be on the lookout for odometer fraud and to start with a CARFAX report.

“It’s a huge misconception that odometer rollback is a thing of the past and it doesn’t happen with these newer digital odometers. And it’s important that we’re all aware that it definitely does,” said Emilie Voss, a CARFAX spokesperson.

CARFAX reports reveal inconsistencies in mileage, but buyers are encouraged to take additional steps.

“Take it for that independent inspection, take it for a test drive, and ask questions of the seller,” Voss said.

Mechanics will be able to spot unusual wear and tear that could cost owners money over time.

“We know that there will be an unexpected maintenance and wear and tear. You weren’t expecting, on a vehicle with 85,000 miles — that you think had 85,000 miles — has a totally different maintenance schedule than a vehicle with 265,000 miles on it,” Voss said.

For 2015 models and newer, manufacturers will store mileage in different locations, but Ingle said that isn’t deterring fraudsters.

"It really doesn’t matter. There are ways around a lot of stuff," Ingle said. "The European models are a little bit tougher, but still doable. With the right technology and the right equipment, you can pretty much do just about any vehicle on the market."

CARFAX has a free tool where consumers can check for odometer fraud. Click here to learn more.

This story was originally published by Mallory Stofastaii on WMAR in Baltimore.