San Diego

A Rise in Rolled Back Odometers

NBC 7 Responds talks to expert that says tampered with odometers on the rise.

The odometers on approximately 30,000 cars on San Diego’s roads have been tampered with, says new findings from CarFax.

That means thousands of car owners could have paid far more than what their car is worth.

Rolling back odometers is nothing new. But with today’s electronic readouts, criminals have figured out new ways to pull off an old scam.

“There are organized crime rings that are doing this to dozens if not hundreds of vehicles at a time,” says Christopher Basso, a spokesperson for CarFax.

Basso tells NBC 7 Responds that having an inaccurate odometer could drive down the cost of a car by as much as $4,000.

And, rolling back the odometers is getting easier and easier to pull off.

“A quick internet search shows the tools that con men are using to change digital odometers,” says Basso.

While the majority of cars with tampered odometers typically end op for sale on websites and on the side of the road, they can also be found at large dealerships.

In March 2017, NBC 7 Responds helped one San Diego man get a refund on a car he purchased from CarMax after we found evidence showing that someone had deleted 40,000 miles from the odometer.

That information was provided to NBC 7 Responds through filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In those documents (page 18) the investigators determined it was “a single incident that occurred in the San Diego area…NHTSA doesn’t have any additional facts that suggest other vehicles associated with [the Toyota Venza’s previous owners] were rolled back.” 

In order to prevent falling prey to this scheme, Basso suggests potential buyers to test drive the car, get the car history from a third party source, and have a mechanic inspect the vehicle.

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