Dealer Fraud: Odometer Rollback Fraud
Today, purchasing a preowned car can provide consumers with significant cost savings, and it is often possible to find a quality vehicle. At the same time there are risks involved, not the least of which is dealer fraud such as odometer rollbacks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost half-a-million vehicles sold each year involve some type of odometer fraud. If you believe you purchased a vehicle with a rolled back odometer, you have powerful legal recourse under state and federal consumer laws.
Timothy Abeel & Associates is the premier consumer law firm serving clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We have extensive experience pursuing auto dealer fraud claims and a proven track record of recovering significant compensation for our clients.
What is odometer fraud?
Odometer fraud or rollback occurs when mileage readings on a vehicle are altered or changed to make it appear as if the vehicle’s mileage total is lower. Odometer rollback is illegal under the Federal Odometer Act and sellers may also be held liable under applicable state consumer fraud laws. Common types of odometer fraud include:
- Resetting the odometer to make the vehicle appear to have lower mileage than it has actually traveled
- Disconnecting an odometer
- Owning a vehicle with an odometer that is not working
- Replacing an odometer without providing required notice
- Failing to disclose the actual mileage in writing at the time the vehicle is transferred or sold
- Failing to report an odometer has rolled through all the digits and restarted
Both auto dealers and private sellers can easily rollback the mileage on an analog odometer with the right tools. Similarly, digital odometers can also be altered with software programs that are readily available on the internet. In either case, odometer fraud is highly profitable scheme as consumers often end up paying thousands of dollars more than vehicles are actually worth.
Nonetheless, the law requires a seller to provide written documentation of the total mileage recorded on an odometer when a vehicle is sold or the title is transferred. If the mileage is known to be incorrect or the odometer has been replaced, the seller must acknowledge this in writing on the title to the buyer.
At the same time, proving odometer fraud is complicated, which makes having an experienced auto dealer fraud attorney crucial. Our capable legal team has decades of experience representing clients who were victims of odometer fraud.
Other Types of Auto Fraud
Many car buyers are unable to to determine if the odometer has been rolled back merely by looking at it since odometer fraud often occurs hand-in-hand with other crimes designed to make a used vehicle appear newer or have less wear than it actually does. This includes altering, forging or replacing the title to conceal the actual mileage at the time of sale or reconditioning the vehicle’s appearance.
How to Detect Odometer Fraud
If you are purchasing a used vehicle, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent odometer fraud, including:
- Inspect the analog or digital odometer to see if there are signs of tampering
- Look for signs of odometer replacement such as scratches and screws that have been replaced or dashboard removal
- Compare the mileage on the odometer against vehicle maintenance and inspection records
- Review the vehicle’s title and registration
- Obtain a vehicle history report
- Look for signs of wear and tear which should be consistent with the amount of mileage the vehicle has been driven (worn seats, gas and brake pedals are a warning sign)
- Inspect the tires – a low mileage vehicle should still have the original tires
- Have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic
How Our Firm Handles Odometer Fraud
Timothy Abeel & Associates routinely represents clients who have been victims of odometer fraud. It is important to note that odometer fraud is a felony offense that is punishable by prison sentences and fines, and victims are also entitled to restitution. Under federal law, victims may be awarded damages for the reduced value and resale value of the vehicle, increased finance charges, insurance charges, taxes, reasonable attorneys fees and costs. Additionally victims may also be protected by applicable state consumer fraud laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
If you purchased a lease vehicle and learned that the odometer was rolled back, you may be angry and not know where to turn. We are dedicated to holding auto dealers accountable for odometer fraud and protecting the rights of our clients. Call our office today for a free consultation or complete the contact form on our website.