CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – Used cars have become a prime target for con artists.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 450,000 cars are sold nationwide each year with false odometer readings, costing consumers more than $ 1 billion annually.
The odometer reading can impact many things for a car owner, such as the overall value of the vehicle, maintenance schedule, insurance premiums, and interest on a car loan.
Carfax estimates that more than 60,000 vehicles in the Carolinas have rolled back odometers.
Michael Domke is with the National Odometer and Title Fraud Enforcement Association, an agency that tracks odometer fraud across the country.
He said that if a car buyer didn’t know what to look for, he could profit from it quite easily.
“I think there’s a misconception that with computers and digital odometers they’re more protected,” Domke said. “And I would actually say it’s probably easier now to adjust and manipulate them than when we had the rolling mechanical odometers.
Automotive expert Josh Ingle showed Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke how easy it is to roll back an odometer. He backed up the odometer reading by 180,000 miles in seconds.
“It will change the value of this truck by about $ 8,500,” he says.
Domke said an increase in online car sales made it harder to catch scammers.
“While this brings some benefits, it also comes with some risks, as it opens up a network of vulnerability for consumers when they buy a vehicle and don’t know who they are buying from,” he said.
He suggests avoiding Craigslist and other online marketplaces.
“These are the areas where it is very easy to do because there are not so many files, there are not so many forms to fill out,” he said.
He also suggests having someone inspect the car before purchasing it and get a vehicle history report.
Carfax and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System are two reputable sites that consumers can use.
“If you are going to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle, take the time to spend an additional $ 50 and get a vehicle history report and know exactly what you are buying. And then be confident that what you see is what you get.