False odometer reading may signal dealer fraud

The odometer reading on a car reveals a lot to a potential buyer. Vehicles that are driven long distances over the course of their lives tend to have major issues with worn components that can lead to expensive repairs and even the replacement of vital engine parts. Some California consumers may find it difficult to obtain financing for a car that has too many miles on it. Certainly, potential customers would be less willing to pay good money if the odometer reading is high, which is why some salespeople resort to dealer fraud to move high-mileage vehicles.

Odometer fraud occurs when a car dealer changes the odometer reading to show a lower mileage than the car has been driven. A dealer may also recondition the vehicle to hide any signs of wear and tear that may raise the suspicions of a customer. Dealers may purchase cars with high mileage cheaply at auctions, then clean them up and reset their odometers so they can sell them for a much higher price.

Unsuspecting consumers lose money each year purchasing cars with fraudulent odometer readings. In fact, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates the annual damages fall between $4 and $10 billion. However, there are protections in place for victims of fraud.

California and federal laws prohibit the manipulation of odometer readings. Dealers who perpetrate this fraud may find themselves facing time in prison if convicted. Victims who suffer financially due to dealer fraud may seek damages through civil courts. With the help of an attorney, some consumers have won triple their losses after a successful case.

Source: FindLaw, "Odometer Fraud", Accessed on Oct. 30, 2017