JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There’s been a significant rise in odometer fraud, especially in Jacksonville. Florida ranks fourth in the nation with cars on the road with rolled back odometers. Action News Jax Investigates found it’s now cheaper and easier to do than ever before. And there is no trace of a crime left behind.
There are 1.9 million cars on the roads across the country with illegally rolled back odometers according to Carfax. Why? The old-style analog odometers took time to roll back. Crooks had to break into the dashboard. But in the digital age, it can be done in a matter of seconds with a readily available tool that can be purchased online for about $300.
THE FRAUD TAKES SECONDS
“You pass the first-grade test, you can operate one of these tools,” said Josh Ingle with Atlanta Speedometer, an electronic repair company in Georgia.
He said crooks plug a device into a car’s computer system and within seconds, manipulate the odometer to read whatever they want.
“There’s no mileage that’s logged anywhere else. We’re changing it in the car. It doesn’t know the difference anywhere else in the vehicle. So, you’re not going to go plug in with something else and research it,” he said.
Ingle told us just how quickly it’s done.
“So, we got 150,000 miles on the odometer right now. I got one, two, three. Press the button and does a quick flash. And now we’re already at 50,000 miles. It’s that fast right now.”
“Odometer fraud is very scary,” said Emilie Voss with Carfax. “It’s not something where there’s a single telltale sign that you can just look at the vehicle and tell that it has a rolled back odometer, and it can cost you thousands and thousands of dollars not to mention headache and heartache.”
Florida ranks fourth in the country with 84,200 vehicles with a rolled back odometers on the road. That’s up 12% from last year. 7,700 vehicles are in the Jacksonville area.
You may be driving one. Action News Jax Investigates found cars with rolled back odometers sold to unsuspecting buyers in Florida.
One example is a 2014 Acura which started out in North Carolina. The owner’s last oil change shows 130,192 miles on it. But then an unsuspecting buyer in Florida bought the car, and a few months later, it only had 45,163 miles on it. The car magically had 85,029 fewer miles.
“We know this is a growing problem,” Voss said.
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She called it a profit-driven scam.
“In this current used car market where you’re already paying top dollar, if you buy a vehicle and don’t know that it has a rolled back odometer, on average, you’re going to be spending an extra $4,000 on top of already record high prices,” Voss said.
The inflated price will cost you more in tax and insurance while the real mileage will end up costing you in unexpected maintenance.
That’s why it’s a felony in Florida. Odometer fraud can land you in prison for five years with a $5,000 fine.
It’s also against the law to lie about it when you sell it. But federal and Florida laws have exemptions on when you need to disclose the miles. It changed a couple years ago, but it basically boils down to when a vehicle is more than 20 years old, you don’t have to disclose its miles when you sell it.
Specifically, vehicles are exempt model year of 2011 or newer from odometer disclosure after 20 years, and a vehicle with a model year of 2010 or older from odometer disclosure after 10 years when filling out a title transfer on a used car.
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Florida Motor Vehicles fraud unit has these tips:
- Look for wear on gas and brake pedals and seats.
- Look for loose screws around the dashboard.
- Check for new tires. Cars with less than 20,000 miles on them, don’t need a new set of tires.
- Have it inspected by a qualified mechanic. “If your car makes a lot of noise, bumps and clicks going along, you know, it’s probably not have 50,000 miles on it,” said Ingle.
You should also check the title for any issues. And you can check for odometer fraud on Carfax’s website: https://www.carfax.com/press/resources/odometer or Florida’s Motor Vehicle Information Check: https://services.flhsmv.gov/mvcheckweb/