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The unprecedented surge in used car prices has given rise to an alarming trend in the automotive market—odometer fraud. As consumers grapple with the challenge of finding affordable vehicles with low mileage, fraudsters are exploiting the situation by purchasing high-mileage cars at a bargain and manipulating the odometer readings to inflate the vehicle’s perceived value. In this blog post, we delve into the details of this deceptive practice and discuss how buyers can protect themselves from falling victim to odometer fraud.
The current auto market has witnessed a tumultuous journey marked by soaring prices, especially in the used car segment. As consumers face the daunting task of securing reasonably priced vehicles with low mileage, opportunistic criminals are capitalizing on the situation. One method they employ involves acquiring high-mileage cars at a lower cost and then tampering with the odometer to present a false narrative of the vehicle’s condition.
Unlike traditional odometers with physical wheels that displayed mileage, modern vehicles are equipped with digital odometers. While these digital displays enhance convenience, they also create an avenue for fraudsters to exploit. By using inexpensive odometer correction tools—priced at around $300—hackers can connect to the car’s computer system and roll back the recorded mileage.
Investigators have demonstrated the ease with which these frauds can occur. In one case, a vehicle with 150,000 miles on the odometer was rolled back to 50,000 miles. The consequence is a deceptive increase in the vehicle’s market value. What seems like a good deal at $6,000 or $7,000 might actually be a vehicle plagued with issues, originally valued at $2,000 or $3,000 due to its true high mileage.
The real challenge arises when buyers, unaware of the manipulated mileage, proceed to register the vehicle. The prior, unaltered mileage is recorded in the title history. In the event of a dispute or conflict, the title may be marked as “TMU” or True Mileage Unknown. This designation can render the vehicle virtually worthless, as it implies that the car’s actual mileage is uncertain and could be significantly higher than what is indicated.
To shield yourself from the perils of odometer fraud, it is imperative not to rely solely on the seller’s word or the information displayed on the vehicle. Performing a thorough title history check is a crucial step in ensuring that the odometer reading is accurate. By verifying the vehicle’s mileage against its documented history, you can avoid the pitfalls of purchasing a seemingly low-mileage car that has, in reality, endured extensive wear and tear.
As the used car market continues to navigate its current challenges, consumers must remain vigilant against deceptive practices like odometer fraud. Staying informed, conducting due diligence, and leveraging title history checks can empower buyers to make well-informed decisions and avoid the pitfalls of a seemingly good deal turning into a costly nightmare.
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