Protecting yourself against odometer fraud

Nina Pineda has the report that could save you thousands.
Seven On Your Side
February 14, 2014 3:16:49 PM PST
It's a scam that costs consumers nearly $800 million each year. It's when you buy a car that's had its mileage rolled back.

That's right, today there are more than a million cars on the road whose owners don't know their car's mileage had been rolled back.

But how can you spot a scam before you buy?

Ghassan Jillad's prized Lexus is broken and buried, snowdrift in a tow yard for the past six months.

"It's a heart attack on wheels," Ghassan Jillad, a car owner.

Ghassan thought he got a deal on his dream car but he said looks can be deceiving.

When he bought it, the dealership told him there was 190,000 miles on it.

But after the transmission blew, Ghassan found the truth on CarFax; The odometer had been rolled back and his car's actual mileage was 260,000.

"Junk car. I mean there's nothing. There's no life left in it," Jillad said.

"Odometer fraud is booming nationwide," said Chris Basso, of CarFax.

One of the problems, says CarFax's Chris Basso, is that the scam's a cinch.

"You no longer have to crack open the dashboard and roll back the old analogue odometers by hand," Basso said.

7 On Your Side found videos on the internet showing how to do it in just seconds.

But Chris says outsmarting the scam is simple.

"First thing, give the car a thorough once over," Basso said.

That means checking the car's condition to see if the wear and tear, on the car's seats, steering wheel, the tires, and even the gas and brake pedals.

"Make sure there's consistent wear and tear on the car that matches up with the odometer reading. If there's not, you likely have a rollback on your hands," Basso said.

Check the maintenance records. You may find the odometer reading there.

Take the car for a test spin.

And get the car inspected by a qualified, independent mechanic.

"If you're not doing those things, you're opening up yourself to become a victim of this fraud," Basso said.

Ghassan's lesson cost him $5,000. He just wants to teach others how to fight this fraud.

"If you end up losing all that money, you were better off checking it out," Jillad said.

The last big tip is that it's also smart to get a vehicle history report before buying.

CarFax offers a free service that checks any vehicle's odometer history.

Remember, the service is free and could wind up saving you thousands.