We’ve come a long way in preventing odometer fraud since the days when it was as easy as spinning the dials back manually, yet despite this, odometer tampering is still frightfully common. In fact, more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings, a crime that costs American car buyers more than $1 billion annually.

Because it is so common, many people assume that odometer fraud is a very minor crime, but in reality, odometer tampering is illegal under both state and federal law. People accused of this crime face serious prosecutions and potentially long sentences. For some, this is an effective deterrent, but many people continue to commit such fraud with impunity.

5 Ways to Ensure You Don’t Become a Victim of Odometer Tampering

While almost any car’s odometer can be tampered with, there are some common ways that you can double check that the car you are looking to buy is probably tamper-free. The following are five things you can do to help ensure you don’t become a victim of odometer tampering.

  1. Check the Carfax or Autocheck report. These reports often can find discrepancies in the numbers over a car’s history if the odometer figures were reported to them that were not in sequence—that is, they did not increase as expected between reports. Other suspicious notes about the car will be found this way as well.

  2. Inspect the service history. Examine the mileage on the receipts and inspection stickers and compare them to the odometer readings to see if something looks suspicious.

  3. Do the math about your mileage while inspecting the odometer yourself. In general, cars are driven an average of 12,000 miles a year. If the seller is averaging much fewer, it’s important to investigate further. Of course, this alone doesn’t mean fraud, but also check for other signs of odometer tampering. Some carmakers put an asterisk by the number or change the color of the reading if it senses tampering. In addition, wear and tear can be compared to the odometer reading to see if they match up.

  4. Look for missing screws, extra switches, or other discrepancies in the car dashboard. Generally, poor repairs can be a sign of illegal tampering (or at best, bad repair work).

  5. Check the control module itself. While it is not too difficult to get a new odometer or change the number displayed on the odometer, the memory in the control module is much harder to adjust. Since few people have the tool needed to check the number in the control module, most fraudsters don’t bother to change in the system. If you go to a dealership, you can often get this checked for a small fee.

If you do these things, you can better protect yourself against potentially costly frauds. While some red flags may be nothing, they can also signal a serious problem.

If you are selling a car, however, you need to be aware of these same red flags. If a potential buyer accuses you of odometer fraud, you can face serious charges, even if you are innocent of any wrongdoing. Odometer fraud is being taken very seriously in Pennsylvania, which means that you can’t just shrug off these charges. If you are accused by anyone of odometer fraud, call the experienced fraud defense lawyers at Fienman Defense today at (215) 839-9529 for a free consultation on your case. We will help you assess the validity of the charges and help you figure out what you can do next.

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