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Avoid car odometer fraud

KENS 5 explains the steps to take and signs to look for to see if the used car you are considering has a tampered odometer.

Double check that deal on a low mileage used car. Schemers know the trick to make a high mileage vehicle look like it’s been driven a lot less.

“A lot of people don’t think you can tamper with a digital odometer and that’s not true,” said Emily Voss of Carfax. “Odometer fraud is a serious issue in the San Antonio area. Carfax estimates about 15,600 vehicles in the San Antonio area have a rolled back odometer.”

“It’s probably easier than ever and requires no disassembly,” said Josh Ingle of Atlanta Speedometer.

Ingle explained there is a tool you can buy that can easily reset a digital odometer. He demonstrated how 2007 Chevy Silverado gains about $8,500 in value in seconds.

“You’re showing 265,000 miles on the odometer and I’ve plugged in a number to take it back to about 85,000 miles,” Ingle said. “You’ll see just a few seconds later that you get your 85,000 miles on there. So that’s quick to do. There’s no digital record of it without some type of report. There’s no history to be able to look at in the vehicle itself to be able to determine it was ever done.”

Ingle uses the tool to legitimately repair odometers, but schemers use them to get you to pay more for a used car up front. You will spend more down the road, too.

“Likely, you’re overpaying for the vehicle up front because of the odometer is something that impacts value greatly," Voss said. "So, a lower odometer reading means the value of the vehicle goes up. So you likely are overpaying if it’s not the true mileage. You will probably have unexpected maintenance and repair costs. Maybe things that need to be replaced down the line that you weren’t anticipating.”

Discovering odometer fraud is not easy to do, but you can take two steps to protect yourself. First, use CarFax.com for free.

“Put that vehicle ID number in there, the VIN number, and we’ll tell you right away if that vehicle has reported odometer roll back or if there’s anything that’s a mileage inconsistency where we’re flagging something that just does not look right with those odometer readings and that vehicle’s history,” Voss said.

Next, have a trusted, independent mechanic look over the vehicle.

“A trained mechanic is going to be able to see things that maybe you or I can’t see. Right?” Voss said. “So they can see advanced signs of wear that maybe don’t match the current odometer reading.”

Sometimes there is more suspicion than proof since there is no sure way to tell if a digital odometer was rolled back. Here is how to handle it:

“If you’re not really solid on the fact that that’s the true mileage of the vehicle, I would recommend just walking away,” Ingle said.

Otherwise, you are likely going to be taken for a ride.

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email us at EWTK@kens5.com or call us as 210-377-8647.