What Exactly Is Odometer Fraud?

Buying a secondhand car has never been a pleasurable experience for me.

There are just too many pitfalls and potential problems, it’s kind of like a lottery.

Many of the possible issues with a secondhand car can be detected if you have a basic knowledge of how they work.

One scam, however, that is not so easily spotted is odometer fraud.


‘Rolling back the clock’ is an age-old scam that makes an older car looker much more attractive to the potential buyer.

It also increases the car’s value, often quite considerably.


In the US it is a felony offense to make a vehicle appear to have travelled less miles than it actually has, be it by tampering with the odometer or by disconnecting it.

It is also an offence to supply any written odometer documentation when it is known that such a statement is false, or based upon figures reflecting that an odometer has been altered or tampered with in any way.

Anyone convicted of odometer fraud is likely to be charged with grand theft too, which will likely lead to a large fine and possible prison sentence.

Obviously, car buyers also lose out in this scam too.

When odometer fraud is committed it is unlikely that just a few thousand miles will be taken off the clock.

Instead, the hidden mileage is much more likely to be tens of thousands of miles.

Not only does this mean that the consumer has paid well over the odds for the vehicle, it also means there are likely to be further associated costs in the near term, such as unexpected maintenance and repairs.

There may even be additional travel costs if the vehicle is subsequently found to be unfit to drive, as well as lost earnings when the new owner has to book time off work in order to effect repairs.


Whilst odometer fraud may be hard for the uninitiated to detect, there are still some signs you can look out for.

The first areas to check are the brake and gas pedals as wear and tear on these should be congruent with the mileage the vehicle appears to have travelled.

If you spot well worn pedals on a car that has low mileage then this may be a good indication that the odometer has been tampered with.

Also check around the dashboard. If it appears to have been newly fitted, or has loose screws, then you should once again beware.

You can also search for any loose screws near the dashboard, damage to the seats or new interior installations.

Lastly, ask the car dealer for all the car’s paperwork and manuals and check them thoroughly as the mileage may have been recorded at different times. You can then simply compare those figures to the current reading on the odometer.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. […] Often, a curbstoning car dealer will utilise this scam in order to offload the type of vehicle they would struggle to sell through their dealership. Whatever part of the country you live, or wherever in the world for that fact, you have probably seen this scam in operation on a street corner near you. There will be several cars for sale in the same place, often parked along the curb, hence the name ‘curbstoners’. Typically, these cars will be ones with problems, that are hard for the dealers to sell through their official businesses. Additionally, cars bought at the roadside may have had their clocks rolled back (odometer fraud). […]

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