Odometer Rollbacks by Crooked Dealers Cost Consumers
The California Lemon Law is one of several consumer protection laws in place to protect buyers of vehicles. Unfortunately, even with rules aimed at helping consumers to avoid losses when buying cars, there are still numerous scams that succeed in separating car buyers from their hard-earned money. One classic scam, which has been around for a long-time but which continues to be practiced today, involves rolling back the odometer on vehicles.
Car Dealers Cost Consumers By Rolling Back Odometers
Newsweek reported on the classic car-dealer scam of rolling back odometers. According to Newsweek, a Georgia-based auto dealer was recently sentenced to a year in prison after he was caught selling 310 cars at auction with odometers that had been adjusted to make it appear the cars had fewer miles than they actually do. The odometers were rolled back by an average of around 67,000 miles. The dealer's accomplice – who used her position in the government to issue fake titles with the lower mileage on them – was also sentenced to a year in prison.
The scam run by the dealer and his accomplice involved purchasing vehicles that had high mileage at low costs. They would then make it appear the vehicles had a lower mileage and would sell the cars to dealers at higher prices than they would have been paid if the odometer accurately reflected how much the car had been driven.
Until they were caught, the scammer and his accomplice enjoyed handsome profits by selling the cars for more than they were actually worth. Dealers who bought the cars ended up losing around $1 million. Each of the 310 cars that the scammer sold ended up fetching prices around $4,000 higher than what was actually reasonable based on the true mileage of the cars. The scammer was ordered to pay close to $400,000 in restitution and the accomplice was ordered to pay $175,000.
Unfortunately, this particular incident was not the only example of a scam involving odometer rollbacks. There was also another woman in Pennsylvania arrested recently and sentenced to four years in prison for tampering with odometers and titles, and a Virginia Beach man recently sentenced for using his job at the DMV to create sham titles showing low mileage for a salvage dealer.
According to Newsweek, around 450,000 cars each year are sold with fake readings on the odometers, costing car buyers more than a billion dollars annually. Consumers who buy vehicles with rolled back odometers from dealers or other scammers typically experience breakdowns, unexpectedly high repair costs, and serious safety issues because their vehicles are much older than anticipated.
Car buyers need to understand common scams, like odometer rollbacks, to try to protect themselves. Unfortunately, even with their best efforts, some car buyers end up with vehicles that don't function as promised, with cars that have rolled back odometers, or with vehicles that have serious safety or operational defects. Consumers need to know their rights under consumer protection laws like the California's lemon law so they can protect their investments in their vehicles when problems arise or scams come to light.