COLORADO SPRINGS — Every year, people buying used cars make mistakes that cost them thousands of dollars. News5 is digging deeper into a major fraud that's being used to trick car buyers. The experts believe odometer fraud can be found on thousands of vehicles on our roads.
How many miles are really on that used car you're looking at buying? That answer can completely change the value of the car and what you pay. Unfortunately, dishonest sellers have found a way to roll back digital odometers costing car buyers thousands of dollars.
Carfax has studied this issue for decades. Its data suggests that more than 1.8 million vehicles on the road today have had their odometer rolled back, a 13% annual increase from 2019.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings, and that costs American car buyers more than $1 billion in value annually.
The tool being used by fraudsters is a legitimate repair tool to correct mileage on a car that requires instrument cluster repair, but in the wrong hands, it's making the crooks rich.
With the push of a button, the owner of Atlanta Speedometer Josh Ingle shows us how in seconds an odometer reading of 265,000 miles switches down to 85,000 miles.
"This doesn't really leave any type of digital footprint. If I were to go back in here and take the chip off the circuit board and really break the circuit board and instrument cluster down there would be no way for even me to verify it," said Ingle.
"A lot of us look for different things. We want information as far as does this vehicle I'm looking at have prior accidents? How many owners does it have? Was it used as a leased vehicle or personal owned vehicle? But on that list should also be was that odometer tampered with? Is there anything suspicious about the mileage history?" said Carfax spokesperson Emilie Voss.
Think this isn't happening in our state or right here in southern Colorado? Think again.
Carfax data estimates in Colorado there are almost 37,000 vehicles on our roads with odometers that have been rolled back.
In the Colorado Springs and Pueblo areas alone, Carfax estimates more than 5,600 vehicles have this issue.
Tracking the history of vehicles helps Carfax to detect potential issues with odometers. The company also believes Colorado ranks 14th in the nation for these problems.
As much as it's a money issue changing the value of vehicles, it can also be a safety issue. Buying a car that's had the odometer rolled back can also lead to unexpected repair costs and dangerous breakdowns for buyers whose cars have more wear and tear than they expected.
Before you buy any car, ask for a Carfax report that will reveal the vehicle's history and a vehicle inspection by a repair shop you know and trust.
"Unfortunately we see a lot of people who have already bought the vehicle, they bring it in and find out that they've got thousands of dollars in maintenance and repair that needs to be done," said Autosmith Owner Darren Dodd. "So the first step is to do your research ahead of time. "When you get it into a shop, you have somebody that's an expert that's looking at it. We know what to expect at 60,000 (miles), 100,000, or 150,000 we know what a car should look like. If there's a red flag there we're going to see it and at least you'll know about it."
Carfax does have a free tool to help you check a specific vehicle for odometer fraud: https://www.carfax.com/press/resources/odometer
If you discover you've been a victim of odometer fraud, or have specifics you can pass along to investigators, your asked to file a claim through the Colorado Attorney General's Office at StopFraudColorado.gov