4 Investigates: Odometer rollbacks and how to spot them | KOB 4

4 Investigates: Odometer rollbacks and how to spot them

Colton Shone
February 01, 2019 05:33 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Buying a car can be an exciting time, but you have to know what you’re getting into before you hand over the cash. And it's a busy time of year for car buying as many New Mexicans eagerly await tax refunds to make the purchase. 


"They want to maybe upgrade the car they have or get a car for a child," said Michael LaPlante with Independent Vehicle Service.

He says they're anticipating a lot of business inspecting used cars at his Albuquerque garage. 

"Whether the car has 20,000 miles or 200,000 miles, you need to get it inspected because there could be a lot of issues that are hidden," said LaPlante.

That's smart shopping, especially because an old scam is making a big comeback.

"Odometer fraud is on the rise unfortunately and partly due to the fact that digital odometers can actually be easier to roll back," said Chris Basso with Carfax.

Basso shows how quick and easy it is to roll back an odometer by thousands of miles in the blink of an eye. A false read can raise the value of a vehicle by thousands of dollars and set a buyer up for a lot of repair work.

According to Carfax data, more than 1.5 million cars had their odometers rolled back illegally in 2018, nearly a 20-percent increase from the previous year. The data also shows that in New Mexico more than 7,000 cars had odometer rollbacks last year.

LaPlante says that's a lot but not shocking. He said they've inspected some questionable stuff over the years. 

"We've seen a scam where someone actually painted over a cluster with a black marker, that covered up every warning light that the car had. They were all on you just couldn't see them," he said.

Basso says many people don't think this happens anymore because of new technology, but it does.

"It's easy to roll back these digital odometers, it's essentially like hacking a computer. The equipment to do it is widely available through simple internet searches," Basso.

So we checked that out and found several odometer adjusters available online. They're used legally to correct readings, however, it would be easy for someone to illegally rollback an odometer.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of this scam, consumer advocates say having a certified mechanic inspect the used car you're going to buy can save you a lot of money down the line.

"We can go in and the engine control unit says the actual mileage on the vehicle," said LaPlante.

Basso says you can also check the 17-digit vehicle inspection number with the DMC or Carmax. It could tip you off to an altered reading.

So what if you bought a car that's been tampered with? Consumer experts say you can file a report with the Better Business Bureau or the Attorney General's Office. But the best thing you can do is check it out before you hand over your hard earned cash.


Colton Shone

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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