Odometer rollback fraud

Odometer Rollback Fraud

Odometer rollback fraud is a deceptive practice that costs consumers billions of dollars annually. Imagine finding the perfect used car, only to discover later that its mileage had been tampered with, and you’ve overpaid for a vehicle with more wear than you thought. Read on to learn how to spot and protect yourself from this fraudulent activity, ensuring that your next car purchase is a wise investment.

What is Odometer Rollback Fraud?

Odometer fraud is the unlawful alteration of a vehicle’s odometer reading to misrepresent the true mileage, making it appear as though the vehicle has traveled fewer miles than it actually has. This deceptive practice, known as false odometer readings, is on the rise, especially in the used car market, as unscrupulous sellers attempt to increase their profits by making vehicles appear more valuable than they truly are.

Digital vs. Mechanical Odometers: The Tampering Methods

Odometer tampering occurs in both mechanical and digital odometers, although the methods of tampering differ between the two types. While mechanical odometers are manipulated by manually rolling back the dials, digital odometers are altered using special tools or by replacing memory chips.

Let’s delve deeper into these tampering methods and how to detect them.

Mechanical Odometer Tampering

Mechanical odometer tampering involves:

  • Disassembling the odometer
  • Manually altering the dials to reflect a reduced mileage
  • Manually rolling back the miles on the odometer
  • Replacing the odometer with a unit displaying a lower mileage
  • Interfering with the numbers on the mechanical instrument

Indications of mechanical odometer tampering include loose screws, missing screws, and evidence of interference with the odometer itself.

Digital Odometer Tampering

Digital odometer tampering refers to the manipulation of a vehicle’s odometer, either by using software or hardware tools to alter the displayed mileage or by replacing the memory chip storing the mileage data. Digital odometer tampering is more challenging to detect, as the methods used to alter the indicated mileage are more subtle and sophisticated.

What are The Legal Consequences of Odometer Fraud?

Odometer fraud is considered a criminal offense in most jurisdictions, with stringent sanctions such as monetary penalties, incarceration, and potential civil litigation. The consequences of odometer fraud are severe, as it not only impacts the price of the vehicle but also its performance, longevity, and public road safety.

Individuals who have been defrauded have the option to pursue legal action against the perpetrators. Reporting odometer fraud to the relevant authorities is essential for holding the person or dealership responsible and preventing future scams.

Identifying Signs of Odometer Tampering

Detecting odometer tampering is critical for avoiding odometer fraud and ensuring that you pay a fair price for a used vehicle. Signs of potential odometer tampering include:

  • Misaligned or illegible numbers
  • Evidence of scratches or fingerprints on the odometer display
  • Discrepancies between the vehicle’s condition and reported mileage

When inspecting maintenance receipts and inspection stickers, be aware of the date of the last service to ensure consistency with the documents provided. If there are no service stickers present or any signs of residue or removal where the sticker was originally placed, it indicates possible tampering with more than just the odometer. Also look out for other clues to odometer tampering, such as excessively worn pedals and driver’s side carpet. Loose door hinges also suggest that the car has been used extensively and could indicate odometer rollback fraud.

Steps to Verify a Vehicle's Mileage

To ensure the accuracy of a vehicle’s car mileage and protect yourself from odometer fraud, there are three crucial steps to follow: obtaining a vehicle history report, inspecting maintenance records, and consulting a mechanic. Each of these steps provides valuable information that will help you detect any inconsistencies or signs of tampering with the odometer reading.

Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is a document that provides information regarding the car’s past, such as accident history and odometer readings at the time of inspections or repairs.

To obtain a vehicle history report, visit a VIN checking website like Vingurus and enter the car’s VIN number. By providing a comprehensive history of the vehicle at different time points, the history report will either confirm that the reported mileage is in agreement with what is indicated on the odometer or help expose odometer fraud.

Maintenance Records Inspection

Inspecting maintenance records is another important step in detecting odometer fraud. When reviewing these records, check the mileage readings for consistency and note any discrepancies that suggest odometer tampering. Be aware of any signs of tampering or alterations to the records, as these would indicate that the seller is attempting to conceal the vehicle’s true mileage.

Consulting a Mechanic

A qualified mechanic is an essential resource in detecting odometer fraud. Their expertise empowers them to recognize if certain car components have been interfered with or are more worn than expected and to offer insight on the number of times the oil and tires should have been replaced.

A mechanic also has the ability to retrieve data off the vehicle’s control module and compare the mileage to the odometer reading to detect odometer fraud.

Reporting Odometer Fraud

If you suspect odometer fraud, it is imperative to report it to the relevant authorities, such as the NHTSA or local law enforcement. Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website to find contact information for the Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation in your state.

To report odometer fraud, you have the following options:

  • Contact the DMV Odometer Crimes Unit (OCU) at 1-518-473-6470 or email Consumer.Protection@usdoj.gov
  • Report it to the relevant agency in your state
  • Contact your local law enforcement agency

Reporting odometer fraud helps to hold perpetrators accountable and protect other consumers from falling victim to this deceptive practice. In recent years, there has been a rise in odometer fraud cases, making it even more important for individuals to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

Preventing Odometer Fraud: Tools and Resources

There are several tools and resources available to help prevent odometer fraud. Mileage tracking applications are valuable tools that accurately record and verify vehicle mileage. These apps track and document the mileage of a vehicle over time, enabling users to detect any abrupt alterations in the odometer reading.

Vehicle history report services, such as Vingurus, help detect any inconsistencies in the odometer reading by providing comprehensive information on the vehicle’s past. Additionally, consulting a mechanic or examining maintenance records can assist in detecting any discrepancies in the odometer reading.

By using these tools and resources, you ensure that you are making an informed decision when purchasing a used vehicle and protect yourself from odometer fraud.


Odometer rollback fraud is a deceptive practice that costs consumers billions of dollars annually. Understanding the methods of tampering, recognizing the signs of odometer fraud, and taking steps to verify a vehicle’s mileage will help you protect yourself from this costly scam. Remember to obtain a vehicle history report, inspect maintenance records, and consult a mechanic when considering a used car purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Carfax say odometer rollback?

CARFAX is capable of detecting potential odometer rollbacks or mileage inconsistencies by analyzing the mileage history and its sources. This is to ensure that the reported odometer reading is accurate and consistent with the vehicle’s history.

At what mileage does an odometer roll over?

Most mechanical odometers roll over at 99,999 miles, resetting the gauge back to zero.

Should you buy a car with odometer rollback?

Buying a car with an odometer rollback will cost you an average of $4,000 upfront and more in the long run; it is therefore not worth the risk.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get your no-hassle appraisal now