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Looking for a used car? Carfax, NHTSA warn to keep an eye out for odometer fraud

Posted at 10:31 AM, Apr 30, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Carfax warn that digital odometers may be making it easier for scammers to artificially inflate the value of a used car.

According to a Carfax survey, odometer cases of odometer fraud are on the rise in some parts of the country.

Kristina Mutic of Milwaukee, Wisconsin bought a 2011 Volkswagen Golf from someone she considered to be a friend.

"I felt more comfortable since this is a used vehicle somebody that I know," she said. "They are very expensive friends."

She paid $5,700 for the car, thinking it had just under 60,000 miles. However, she just discovered the car has an additional 100,000 on it.

"I was just extremely hurt and extremely angry," Mutic said.

Now, with closer to 160,000 miles, she's had to pay hundreds of dollars on repairs.

Mutic is one of at least three people to report Tomasz Lesniewski, her former friend, to Wisconsin's Department of Transportation since the start of 2018 for odometer fraud. WisDOT says it is looking into charges of odometer tampering.

Lewsniewski hasn't had a dealer license in Wisconsin since 2016, when he voluntarily closed his business.

Mutic isn't alone.

A 2013 study by Carfax estimated that there are more than 1 million cars on the road with rolled back odometers, and there are nearly 200,000 instances of odometer rollbacks each year. The cars most susceptible to rollbacks are about 14-15 years old.

"It's crooked to do that to someone," mechanic Dave Manyo said.

He's seen cars with a hundred thousand miles off from what the Carfax report indicates the car should have. He's not surprised by the Carfax's report, but he is concerned.

"That's the biggest thing — all the safety issues that arise with that kind of mileage on a vehicle," he said.

So what can you do if you're buying a used car?

  • Manyo recommends paying for the Carfax report
  • He also suggests getting the VIN number from the seller and checking that.

Tips from Wisconsin DMV:

  • Pay close attention to batteries, hoses, clamps, fan belts and air conditioning belts. If those parts have recently been replaced and the vehicle has low mileage, it could be a red flag.
  • Vehicles formerly owned by leasing companies are often targets. Those vehicles are usually late model vehicles with high mileage. Rolling back the odometer on a late model vehicle makes it highly desirable on the used car market.

To read more Carfax's report, click here .

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has information about odometer fraud.