STATEWIDE (WGME) – It’s a crime you may not even know exists, but is costing Mainers money. Right now, there are thousands of cars in Maine with odometers that have been rolled back.
Attorney Dan Kagan has seen a lot of cases, but he says never one quite like this until a few years ago.
According to court documents his client thought he was buying a Jeep Wrangler, from a Southern Maine broker, promised to be in “exceptional condition” with 86,000 miles.
Kagan said, “He person who bought the car trusted the seller.”
Turned out that Jeep with 86,000 miles, actually had 286,000 miles. The buyer didn’t find out until he’d already bought the SUV and tried to get the title from the Maine Secretary of State.
Kagan also stated, “Simply put the documentation had been altered.”
The attorney said the paperwork from the seller, including a Carfax report, was falsified to indicate lower mileage. After a trip to court, the case was resolved.
“The guy who sold him the vehicle took the car back plus paid him back for his time and aggravation.” Kagan added.
This kind of odometer fraud breaks state and federal laws, but experts say it’s actually not as common as tampering with the odometer itself. In fact, Carfax has identified 60,000 vehicles just in New England with a rolled back odometer. A million nationwide.
Across the country, 200,000 cars have their odometers rolled back every year.
Chris Basso fro Carfax stated, “Despite common misconceptions that odometer fraud no longer exists anymore, we’re actually seeing a growth in this problem.” Because Basso said, it’s easier now to reset or alter an odometer than it used to be.
Now we’re in the digital age, instead of having to rollback the odometer by hand you can plug a device in to the car’s computer and do it within seconds. Depending on the make and model, Basso stated rolling back an odometer reading can add thousands of dollars to the selling price and also mean you need repairs sooner than you expected.
Basso said, “That’s a big problem for consumers, costing them a lot of money.”
Kagan said while it may now be easier to change the odometer, there’s much more paperwork now documenting *actual* mileage. He suggested car buyers get that paperwork for themselves.
Always make sure the paper lines up, if the paper doesn’t line up on a car you’re looking to buy, you should probably walk away.
It’s *not* illegal to repair or replace an odometer as long as the mileage is the same after service. However it is a felony under Maine law to tamper with a car’s odometer or disclosure statements in order to misrepresent the mileage.
Carfax offers a free odometer check. Just put in your 17 digit vin to verify the odometer reading.