Fraud Alert: How to Spot Odometer Fraud

Happy that you just bought a nice used car with low miles? Can’t believe that you got such a great deal? Maybe the prior owner didn’t drive it much. Or perhaps you’re a victim of a $1 billion problem in America called odometer fraud.

Odometer fraud is on the rise. According to Carfax, fraudsters are looking for creative ways to boost profits. One tactic is to dupe buyers into thinking the car has fewer miles by rolling back the odometer miles. ICW Group’s Special Investigations Unit recently attended a training hosted by the International Association of Special Investigations Units (IASIU) to learn how to identify this type of fraud and pass the information to our policyholders.

Patrick Olsen, an Executive Editor at Carfax, suspects that the recent surge in used car prices is to blame. Average used vehicle prices rose from about $20,000 in December 2019 to approximately $27,000 in December 2022. Supply chain disruptions and shortages in new vehicle inventory have pushed more customers to the used market, which has pushed up prices. Those circumstances also are making used vehicles scarcer.

Protect yourself from odometer fraud

It can be difficult, but not impossible, to detect whether a vehicle’s odometer has been altered. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes the following recommendations to potential used-car buyers.

  • Ask to see the title and compare the mileage on it with the vehicle’s odometer. Be sure to examine the title closely if the mileage notation seems obscured or is not easy to read.
  • Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records. Also, search for oil change and maintenance stickers on windows or door frames, in the glove box or under the hood.
  • Examine the tires. If the odometer on your car shows 20,000 or less, it should have the original tires.
  • Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle—especially the gas, brake, and clutch pedals—to be sure it seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
  • Request a vehicle history report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history. If the seller does not have a vehicle history report, use the car’s VIN to order a vehicle history report online.
  • If you suspect fraud, contact your state’s enforcement agency.
Teena Barton
Teena Barton
Teena is a Major Case Investigator with expertise in capping and organized crimes in healthcare fraud, collaborating with Insiders, and specializing in victimology. She was featured in a nationally covered story by Reveal News and NPR radio called “Billion Dollar Scam.” She is a national speaker and collaborates with an attorney convicted of selling clients to surgeons and who had a role in creating one of the most prolific organized capping schemes in US history to help inform the public. Teena is a former Police Officer/Criminal Investigator and a military veteran, having served during the Persian Gulf War, in Desert Storm/Desert Shield for the US Air Force. She is a Cum Laude graduate of Texas Christian University.

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